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BJP's Raje bargains on successor

Vasundhara Raje met senior BJP leaders L.K. Advani and Rajnath Singh on Saturday — her first meeting with them since she agreed to abide by the party parliamentary board’s decision to quit as Leader of Opposition in Rajasthan. Shekhar Iyer reports.

india Updated: Aug 23, 2009 01:31 IST
Shekhar Iyer

Vasundhara Raje met senior BJP leaders L.K. Advani and Rajnath Singh on Saturday — her first meeting with them since she agreed to abide by the party parliamentary board’s decision to quit as Leader of Opposition in Rajasthan.

Raje conveyed to them her “concerns” relating to the choice of her succession, the fate of the two suspended MLAs who had backed her and the future role she would like to play in the party.

Amid indications that she would demit office shortly, Raje apparently sought an assurance that MLAs be allowed to select their leader instead of being forced to accept a nominee chosen by the central leaders or her detractors in the state.

Raje, who said she has still enough number of MLAs backing her, is said to have “conveyed” their unwillingness to accept Ganshyam Tewari or Gulabchand Kataria as her successor, BJP insiders said. Between the two, Tewari is less acceptable to her group.

Besides, state BJP chief Arvind Chaturvedi is a Brahmin. Therefore, Raje would expect that her successor would be chosen from a different community, in tune with the BJP’s support base.

Two MLAs — Rajendra Singh Rathore and Gyandev Ahuja — were suspended by Chaturvedi for rallying in support of Raje despite the board’s decision.

Though, BJP leaders indicated that Raje could be considered for an elevation as general secretary in Delhi, it is not clear whether she could be handed the responsibility so soon.

Earlier on Saturday, Raje brushed aside rumours about her presence in the capital, saying she was supposed to meet the leaders after the BJP’s three-day chintan baithak (introspection meet).

“I can’t understand whole of this because I respect...people in the party, the senior leaders of the party and I was always meant to come after the chintan baithak. I am here...No speculation...”

On August 16, the party’s parliamentary board indicated that she could decide on her timing of exit as the Leader of Opposition in Rajasthan.

In an apparent climbdown, Raje had agreed to be “abide” by any decision of the BJP’s parliamentary board. In turn, Singh had agreed not to press for her resignation with immediate effect. Instead, he accepted the board’s view that she be allowed to exit with “honour” without any deadline or tag that she must own up for the party’s poor showing in the elections.