An unlikely winner in the entire political drama in Rajasthan has been former chief minister and BJP leader Vasundhara Raje.
- Her reluctance to cooperate with the Congress rebels led by Sachin Pilot is said to have been a key factor that led to the failure of the rebellion.
- In the process, Raje also managed to re-assert her control over the Rajasthan BJP and clip the wings of some of her rivals, who may have been keen to do business with Pilot and bring down the Ashok Gehlot government.
How Raje Helped Gehlot
- When it was clear that the then Deputy Chief Minister and state Congress chief Sachin Pilot is all set to rebel, not all factions in the Rajasthan BJP were on the same page regarding colluding with the rebels.
- Union Minister Gajendra Shekhawat and Rajasthan BJP chief Satish Poonia were far more keen than Raje to bring down the Gehlot government. The Congress has even released audio tapes claiming that they were of Shekhawat trying to win over Congress MLAs.
- Unlike Poonia and Shekhawat, who made a lot of statements during the entire political crisis, Raje maintained a studied silence, except a vague post on social media saying that the Congress needs to focus on governance.
- A meeting of BJP MLAs had to be cancelled, supposedly due to Raje's decision not to attend.
- Even last week, when there was a move to send BJP MLAs to Gujarat for protection, it was Raje who is said to have nixed it. MLAs from her pocket-borough Jhalawar apparently refused to move citing "COVID-19 threat".
- As Raje has the loyalty of over 40 BJP MLAs out of 72, no attempt at bringing down the government could have been possible without her cooperation.
- With the BJP not backing them to the fullest, the rebel MLAs had no choice but to back down.
Vasundhara Raje’s Rivals
- A whisper campaign is already underway in the BJP that the Operation Kamal has failed in Rajasthan because of Raje’s non-cooperation.
- While Poonia and Shekhawat avoided criticising Raje openly, Shekhawat did take a dig at Raje’s silence on Pilot saying “sometimes, silence is louder than words”.
- The open attack did come, but from BJP ally and Rashtriya Loktantrik Party chief Hanuman Beniwal, who accused Raje of being hand-in-glove with the Congress and helping Ashok Gehlot. He even alleged that Raje put pressure on some Congress MLAs to end their rebellion.
- Beniwal is a known critic of Raje. He had been suspended from the party in 2013 for accusing Raje of corruption. The Jat leader also accused Raje’s ministers like Rajendra Rathore and Yunus Khan of protecting Ravana Rajput gangster Anandpal Singh.
The Backstory: How BJP Sidelined Raje
Raje’s refusal to back efforts to bring down the Gehlot government may also be seen in the context of the BJP’s attempts to sideline her. These efforts began way back when she was still CM. Now, it is well known that Raje didn’t share a good equation with the RSS or with the then BJP president Amit Shah.
Appointment of Rajasthan BJP Chief
- After the BJP's defeat in three by-elections in 2018, the BJP sought to replace Raje loyalist and state BJP chief Ashok Parnami with Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, an RSS favourite.
- But Raje refused and a two-month long stalemate took place between Raje and the BJP's central leadership. In the end senior leader Madan Lal Saini was appointed as a consensus candidate.
- However, Saini passed away last year. The BJP leadership, now keen to sideline Raje for good, appointed Satish Poonia as the state unit chief. He is known to be part of the anti-Raje faction.
The 2018 Elections and its Aftermath
- The 2018 Assembly elections were pretty much Raje's battle. She led the party campaign from the front, even if it meant holding out against the the BJP central leadership, especially Amit Shah.
- So when the BJP was defeated, she wasn't made leader of the Opposition, unlike Gehlot's previous term (2008-13). Instead, the BJP appointed veteran leader Gulab Chand Kataria to the position.
- In the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP struck a deal with Raje baiter Hanuman Beniwal. He was made the NDA candidate from the Nagaur Lok Sabha seat, which he won.
- Raje’s son Dushyant Singh won from the Jhalawar-Baran Lok Sabha constituency in 2019 for the third time and yet he wasn't made a minister in the Narendra Modi government. Instead Gajendra Singh Shekhawat was made a minister. He is a known Raje-critic and supposedly the RSS pick as BJP's CM face in the state
In 1993, BJP leader Bhanwar Lal Sharma and a group of rebels had allegedly tried to bring down the Bhairon Singh Shekhawat-led BJP government when the chief minister was away in the United States for medical treatment.
A faction of the Congress is said to have been actively colluding with the BJP rebels but Ashok Gehlot refused to be part of it.
Bhanwar Lal Sharma is now in the Congress and was a key confidante of Pilot in his rebellion. But when the revolt failed, Sharma is said to have come back to Gehlot even before Pilot made the announcement that “matters have been resolved”.
Raje, therefore, reacted the way Gehlot did in 1993 and nixed the revolt against her rival.
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