A worried BJP has gone into an overdrive to check its losses in Rajasthan, which goes to the polls on May 7.
So anxious is the party that Saturday saw L.K. Advani calling on Bhairon Singh Shekhawat. This, just four months after the former vice-president opposed Advani’s candidature as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate and threw his hat in the ring.
Later in the day, Shekhawat issued an appeal to the state’s voters to elect BJP candidates. “In helping Advani become PM, you will be helping a Rajasthani at heart,” he said.
Rajasthan is key to the BJP’s hopes of emerging the single-largest party. In 2004, the party won 21 of the state’s 25 seats. But this time, in the backdrop of inner party bickering and the impact of the recent state elections when it lost power, it fears it will lose many seats. Party leaders also admit that Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot is counting on these factors to drive the Congress to victory.
So saffron strategists are working towards unity among local leaders as well as cadres.
Senior leaders Venkaiah Naidu and Ananth Kumar have been deputed to Rajasthan in a last ditch bid to ensure that squabbling between former CM Vasundhara Raje and her detractors are not allowed to spoil the party’s chances.
By roping in Shekhawat, central BJP leaders hope to send a strong message to the warring factions that when a tall leader like him has made an appeal, they should fall in line.
Feedback from the first three phases indicated improvement in the number of seats for the BJP in Karnataka, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh and even Maharashtra.
In Gujarat, the party expects not less than 20 seats, six up from 2004. In Karnataka, which has 28 seats, the party expects 20-22. It had held 18 previously. And in Mumbai, with six seats, they hope to win 3-4 seats.