The loss of Rajasthan has brought into focus Vasundhara Raje’s style of functioning. BJP leaders, who are blaming her squarely for the defeat, cannot stop comparing the outgoing chief minister with Shivraj Singh Chouhan, particularly their attitude and approach.
Both leaders received the same kind of support, back-up, constituency-level inputs and critical feedback from the central BJP, they said. Both were told what was going wrong and the corrections needed to strengthen their campaigns.
A BJP official recalled that Chouhan, the MP Chief Minister, and Raje were called to senior leader Venkaiah Naidu’s residence, where a week-by-week campaign schedule was worked out.
“While Chouhan worked on every target, Raje would turn to her select group of aides and advisers to evaluate every advice that was given. Many a time Raje would not even respond,” the BJP official said.
Chouhan heeded every word of advice that came from the poll managers. At one stage, he even told central leaders that he did not want to poke his nose into everything and confine himself to what he’s best at: connecting to the voter.
In contrast, Raje’s attitude was that she knew best and the rest were “useless”. She refused to listen to any input from Delhi — whether it was on the selection of candidates, implementing specific targets within a time frame or even on the focus of campaign.
Consequently, many central leaders now favour a greater say in Candidate selection rather than giving the handle to regional heavyweights. At Monday’s meeting of the BJP parliamentary board, several senior leaders were upset that Raje’s actions were not supervised and pressed for a change in the party’s approach that allows almost autonomy to local leaders to decide nominees.
Raje relied totally on what her aides fed her, particularly surveys done by private groups whose role has come into question following the defeat. Allegations have surfaced that these surveys were “fixed”.
The high number of rebels in Rajasthan is attributed to Raje insisting on tickets for lightweights whom she thought were the best. The result: 27 official BJP candidates lost to the rebels, who numbered 62 this time.
“If you add 27 seats to the 78 we won, we should have had a comfortable majority to return to power. Raje inflicted it on her self. It’s unfortunate that when she had a popular image she could not overcome her unpopular ways of functioning that finally undid her,” said a BJP strategist.