An embattled Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje began tapping into her supporters within the BJP on Thursday as the party leadership weighed its options over sacking the senior leader for her links with former IPL boss Lalit Modi.
Sources in the BJP said the party was divided over the question of action against Raje because acking her could also embolden the Opposition to push for the resignations of foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, also accused of helping Modi, and human resource development minister Smriti Irani who is facing a potential trial on charges of falsifying her educational degrees in poll affidavits.
Forcing Raje out could also see her break away from the BJP and form her own party, a possibility that was, for now, rejected by party leaders in Rajasthan.
Raje went into a huddle with her top advisers, health minister Rajendra Rathore and state BJP president Ashok Parnami, and met party MLAs at her residence, indicating she wasn’t planning to go down without a fight.
The 62-year-old enjoyed the confidence of BJP legislators but party leaders said her position was vulnerable after the emergence of documents that purportedly showed she signed off on the UK immigration application of Modi, who is wanted in India on charges of fraud and money laundering.
“Her position in Rajasthan and in Delhi is not as strong as earlier when LK Advani was in the party and strongly backed her. If the central leadership takes a decision, many MLAs who are supporting her might ditch her,” a party spokesperson said. The state unit has said it was trying to get the authenticity of the documents verified.
The controversy over Raje’s alleged support to Modi’s UK immigration plea has dented the BJP’s image but sources said the party was wary of pushing out the Rajasthan CM because such a move could prompt her to breakaway and form her own outfit.
“There is no question of the CM stepping down. No leader from Jaipur is going to Delhi to meet leaders there. All these rumors are being spread by the media. We are all with Raje,” state BJP president Ashok Parnami said.
The Rajasthan CM has remained tight lipped throughout the crisis and refused to talk to the media, only breaking her silence to strenuously deny supporting Modi. On Thursday morning, she made an appearance at the passing out parade of police sub-inspectors in Jaipur but avoided reporters.
Instead, she has tried to reach out to party leaders, clarifying her position to top leadership as her confidants Rathore, Parnami and industry minister Gajendra Singh Khinvsar station themselves in the CM’s office to find a way out of the mess.
“There is no controversy. So what if there is a signed document. It is not verified. And she did not depose before any court in Britain,” a Raje aide said.
As the controversy raged last week, BJP vice-president Om Mathur was stationed in Jaipur for three days. Mathur, who is said to be in the anti-Raje camp and close to the RSS, is being seen as a possible successor to Raje. But there is a strong possibility a dark horse might emerge.
Read:Congress says Raje 'secretly' backed Lalit Modi, CM cancels UK trip