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Raje bulldozes Congress, unifies BJP ranks

Raje's efforts to rein in infighting within the party have paid off with huge victory. Rashpal Singh reports.

india Updated: Dec 10, 2013 16:26 IST
Rashpal Singh

The landslide win in Rajasthan assembly polls is the grandest of the victories the BJP tasted on Sunday.

Contrasted with the noisy celebrations on streets, the architect of this success, Vasundhara Raje, however, appeared composed.

Unlike in 2003, when she went overboard in lambasting the Congress and celebrated the party's victory in a pompous way, Raje preferred to spend time with party workers in her constituency, Jhalrapatan, and in Jaipur.

Clad in a saffron sari, Raje started her day at the Tripura Sundri temple in Jhalawar and spent nearly two hours performing several rituals. Later, she enquired about the results and thanked party workers.

Back in Jaipur, Raje met with party leaders and discussed the strategy to form the government. She credited BJP PM candidate Narendra Modi with the victory.

"Narendra Modi has a big hand in our victory in Rajasthan. People of Rajasthan want to see the same development he has carried out in Gujarat. This is just the semi-final of what is going to happen shortly in the general elections," she said.

Raje chose not to attack her opponent, outgoing chief minister Ashok Gehlot, and just said the people "were tired of Congress misrule".

In 2003, when she became the CM for the first time, it was her leadership and support from the RSS which ensured the party won 120 seats. But this tally came down drastically in 2008 to only 78.

After the party's defeat, Raje became the leader of the opposition but spent most of her time out of the state. The party affairs worsened with no one at the helm. To make things worse for her, in 2010, Raje was sidelined from state politics by then BJP president Rajnath Singh, who made her general secretary in the national executive and sent her packing to Delhi.

In 2011, she once again became the leader of the opposition and earlier this year she was re-appointed state BJP chief.

Singing a new tune
Since then, a wiser Raje made an effort to reach out to the leaders within the party and the party's ideological fount, RSS. During her campaign, experts observed how her speeches have came to include the all-embracing "we".

"Hamein ek saath chal ke naya Rajasthan banana hai (We have to walk together to build a new Rajasthan)," she said in most of her speeches.

"She has become a patient listener, though she still prefers to do what she likes," said a party leader on the condition of anonymity.

In March this year, she met Sangh leader Mohan Bhagwat during a three-day meet of the RSS at Jamdoli. And in the first week of October, she met other leaders at Sawai Madhopur and had a long discussion with them.

She also convened a meeting with all former presidents of the party on October 15. The meeting, according to the official version, was meant to discuss poll strategy, but insiders said it was actually a bid to placate the dissenters within the party.

Clearly, Raje's efforts to rein in infighting within the party have paid off with this huge victory.

"Raje has emerged as leader of masses and all party leaders have accepted her," said party spokesperson Kailash Nath Bhatt.

The party leader and now incumbent CM's post-victory comments too hit the right note on Sunday.

"We will provide good governance," she said.