The BJP’s defence of Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje seems equivocal, or rather paradoxical. Even though the party has ruled out her resignation, PM Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah remained reluctant to meet her or come to her defence.
Raje attended a meeting of the Niti Aayog in Delhi on Saturday, but contrary to expectations she did not meet the PM Modi or the top BJP leadership in the wake of a raging controversy involving former IPL chief Lalit Modi.
BJP sources claimed that the chief minister was advised to return to Jaipur immediately after the sub-committee meeting and she did not seek any appointment with senior leaders.
Party sources said finance minister Arun Jaitley — who separately met Prime Minister Modi and BJP chief Shah on Friday — went through available documents relating to Raje’s case and found nothing illegal in her dealings with former IPL chief Lalit Modi, whom she had allegedly helped get British immigration papers.
Yet, there was no meeting. There are a few reasons for these contradictory signals.
The party is still not sure about the extent of her dealings with former IPL commissioner Lalit Modi. She first feigned ignorance about an affidavit supporting his immigration bid and admitted to it privately to some party leaders only when media got hold of a signed copy. So
far, the party finds it difficult to act against a CM who has dug her heels.
Also, the party is not confident about the genuineness of her parliamentarian-son Dushyant Singh’s business transactions with Lalit Modi, who had invested heavily in his company.
A source said the party is trying to maintain a safe distance from Raje, so that an exit route was always ready if some clinching evidence cropped up against her or Dushyant.
Political instability in Rajasthan government – which enjoys a brute majority in state assembly – would be the first thing to greet the party if Raje is shown the door. Delhi suspects her exit could trigger a ‘revolt’ by a majority of MLAs owing to their allegiance to Raje.
On Saturday, a Jaipur-based citizen forum of social activists demanded her resignation, held a two-hour protest and rallied hundreads of activists carrying placards.
“She won 163 out of 200 assembly seats in December 2013 and swept all 25 Lok Sabha seats in May 2014. How do you sacrifice a leader of that stature under the Opposition’s pressure?” a cabinet minister said.
As it is, if “impropriety” clause is invoked for Raje, the same yardstick would then have to be applied against Sushma Swaraj. There are fears about a regrouping of CMs, who are mass leaders in their own right, against the Delhi leadership if Raje is booted out.
This is another situation that party would want to avoid when its margdarshaks like LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Yashwant Sinha get their voice back.
Any action against Raje runs the risk of undermining the party’s anti-corruption plank in the election and also alienating some powerful regional satraps. The unending controversy over Lalitgate is, however, undermining the NDA’s image, with the Congress trying to embroil the PM in it.