Rajasthan: Raje, Shekhawat, Meghwal among contenders for CM’s post
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) contested the polls without a chief ministerial candidate with Prime Minister Narendra Modi leading the campaign
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which appears set to return to power in Rajasthan in line with the state’s trend of voting out the incumbent every five years, contested the polls without a chief ministerial candidate. Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the campaign in the state with two-time chief minister Vasundhara Raje, 70, expected to be among the leading contenders for the state’s top elected post. Raje has been the BJP’s face in Rajasthan for the last two decades.
Raje, the first woman chief minister of Rajasthan, has also been a five-time Parliament member. A BJP national vice-president, Raje is seen as an able administrator who has had frequent run-ins with the top leadership.
Educated in Kodaikanal and Mumbai, Raje began her political career in 1984. Raje’s mother, Vijaya Raje Scindia, was among the BJP’s founders. She became a Lok Sabha member from Jhalwar in 1989 and later served as a minister in Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government.
Raje returned to state politics in 2003 with chief minister Bhairon Singh Shekhawat mentoring her.
After the BJP’s defeat in the 2018 polls, Raje chose distance from the party and was absent from its meetings and programmes. There was a clamour from Raje’s supporters to project her as the chief ministerial candidate but the BJP leadership opted for collective leadership. The BJP, however, gave tickets to over 40 of her supporters. Raje addressed rallies across the state.
Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, 56, the BJP’s Rajput face, is another contender for the top job. He shot to fame after defeating Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot’s son, Vaibhav, in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections from Jodhpur. Shekhawat is considered close to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the BJP’s ideological fountainhead, and the party’s top leadership. Gehlot has accused Shekhawat of involvement in a credit cooperative scam and of trying to topple the Congress government in 2020.
Raje is believed to have opposed Shekhawat’s appointment as the Rajasthan BJP chief when she was the chief minister. In the run-up to the 2023 polls, Shekhawat was instrumental in the defection of Rameshwar Dadhich, a close aide to Gehlot, to the BJP.
Shekhawat began his political career in student politics in Jodhpur. He won his first Lok Sabha election in 2014 from Jodhpur with a margin of 410000 votes.
Union minister Arjun Ram Meghwal, a former bureaucrat, is also seen among the contenders for the chief minister’s post. Known to enjoy Modi’s confidence, Meghwal is a three-time parliamentarian and one of the Dalit faces in Rajasthan. Meghwal, 69, is known to keep a low profile and a good administrator.
Meghwal, who comes from a family of weavers in Bikaner, resigned as an Indian Administrative Service officer before winning the Lok Sabha elections in 2009 from Bikaner.
Two-time parliamentarian from Chittorgarh, CP Joshi is among the contenders as the state chief. In 2019, he won the Lok Sabha elections by the margin of 576000 votes, defeating Congress’s Girija Vyas. Joshi started his political career with the Congress’s student wing National Students Union of India. Joshi, 48, took over as the state unit chief amid factionalism.
Baba Balaknath, the BJP’s Lok Sabha member from Alwar, may emerge as a dark horse among the contenders. The head of the Nath sect in Rohtak, Balaknath is known to be close to Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath. He has a mass following in eastern Rajasthan, where he contested the 2023 polls from Tijara.
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