A defiant Vasundhara Raje has dug in her heels, ignoring hints from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Rajnath Singh to quit as Leader of the Opposition in the Rajasthan assembly — taking the blame for the party’s poor showing in the assembly and Lok Sabha polls.
Instead, Raje, former chief minister of the state, is rallying legislators, who have virtually challenged the central leadership to conduct a poll to check her popularity. They also plan a show of strength in Delhi.
Although an equally firm Singh mulled forcing her to fall in line, some other leaders, including LK Advani, were not too happy at the handling and timing of the crisis – just before the party’s chintan baithak (brainstorming session) on August 19.
A few days ago, Singh is supposed to have told Raje to step down according to a plan that involved removal of all those blamed for the party’s poor showing in the polls.
He had apparently pointed to her that already, state BJP chief Om Mathur had stepped down in favour of Arvind Chaturvedi. Prakash Chand, BJP’s organising secretary for Rajasthan, had also been eased out. These leaders, along with Raje, face the flak for the debacle.
But Raje did not think that she should quit, as she had been elected Leader of the Opposition. She wanted Advani’s consent to be taken before asking her to quit. Singh did speak to Advani, and took the view that he had clinched the issue in favour of her ouster, said BJP sources.
Raje, who had been counting on Advani’s support, was upset by media reports on Thursday, saying Singh had “sacked” her from the post. She stepped up the offensive against her detractors.
Her rivals said the party had almost finalised Gulabchand Kataria’s name as leader of the Opposition, who is also an RSS-backed leader and belongs to the anti Raje-camp.
Arun Chaturvedi, the new state BJP chief, was in Delhi on Wednesday, apprising the central leaders of the situation.
“The high command is not happy that Raje had failed to take the moral responsibility,” a senior leader said.
But Raje’s close aide Rajendra Rathore said, “This is a canard being spread by vested interests. Why should she be replaced? She enjoys a mass base.”