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Tough job: Raje has to manage party bosses, keep aspirations in check

Srinand Jha, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, December 17, 2013
First Published: 01:00 IST(17/12/2013) | Last Updated: 01:05 IST(17/12/2013)

The ‘desert storm’ that brought the Bharatiya Janata Party back to power in Rajasthan is surely splendid news for Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.

For, it shows the Narendra Modi wave — or ripple, as his critics claim — but chief minister Vasundhara Raje has reasons to be circumspect. Big wins have often led to big troubles.

"Landslide wins impact political leaders adversely. Indira Gandhi was quoted as saying that her problems multiplied after the Congress was returned with a two-thirds majority in the 1971 elections,” said political commentator CP Bhambhri.

Alert Big Brother
Observers say Raje is under constant watch. While Modi was present in her swearing-in ceremony, two of his closest BJP leaders, Arun Jaitley and Amit Shah, attended even the function on December 9, where she was elected party leader in the assembly. They reportedly advised Raje to constitute a small cabinet, to begin with.

The inference is not that Modi or other central BJP leaders will try to micro-manage Raje’s performance.

But the party leadership can hardly be expected to rock the boat till the BJP’s win in the 2014 general elections is signed and sealed.

The unprecedented electoral victory has also brought in other and unexpected troubles for Raje.

Empty coffers
Towards the end of his tenure, Ashok Gehlot loosened the state’s purse strings, making huge allocations for programmes including the free medicine and pension scheme and money guzzlers like the Jaipur Metro and Barmer refinery projects. “Rajasthan will get some revenues as oil royalty, but the state coffers are virtually empty. Raje has little chance of immediately implementing her manifesto promises,” said a senior bureaucrat.

Sub-regional and caste rivalries
The new entrants to the BJP fold — the Rajputs, Jats, Gujjars, scheduled castes and sections of Muslims — are riding high waves of aspirations, sometimes clashing with each other.

Already, there are perceptible pointers. A day after having been elected on a BJP ticket from the Gudda constituency in Jhunjhunu, Shubh Karan Chaudhary, a Jat leader, publicly demanded the removal of a Rajput leader, district party president Dasrath Shekhawat. Such incidents are happening elsewhere too.

Ginger groups
At best, Raje has a working relationship with the RSS and party chief Rajnath Singh. And her performance will have to fit into the BJP’s — or Modi’s, so to speak — scheme of things for 2014.

“She is unlikely to get a free hand despite — or because of — the big win. This is the reason that astute politicians like Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, who was often at loggerheads with athe RSS, never aspired for big wins,” veteran political observer Rajpal Singh Banethi said.

“An anti-Raje section existed in the BJP even during her first term. She can accommodate a limited number of MLAs in her cabinet or as heads of corporations, commissions or boards.

But what happens to others who have also spent huge sums for getting elected?

How can she prevent the emergence of ginger groups in her backyard?

Answers, as they say, have never been as easy as questions.

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