Is Ex-Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje Headed To Centre, What’s The Road Ahead For Her?

The road ahead for Vasundhara Raje, the two-time Chief Minister of Rajasthan, is unclear after first-time MLA Bhajan Lal Sharma was chosen over her to lead the state after Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) victory in the state elections.

Two-time Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje had to pass the baton to first-time MLA Bhajan Lal Sharma, the choice of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP's central leadership

A decade is a long time in politics. This is reflected in the crowning of Bhajan Lal Sharma as the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Chief Minister-designate in Rajasthan. 

Exactly around 10 years ago on December 13, 2013, Vasundhara Raje —who proposed the name of Sharma as the Leader of the BJP Legislature Party this time— took oath for the second time as the CM of Rajasthan. She looked invincible after leading the party to the best victory by winning 163 of the 200 seats in the state assembly. The swearing-in ceremony took place right in front of the state assembly where top party leaders, including the then-prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, were witnesses to the grand event.

Now, 10 years later, on the eve of 10th anniversary of that grand ceremony, Raje had to pass the baton to the soon-to-be CM of Rajasthan Sharma — even as she was hoping for a third chief ministerial tenure. Sharma is the pick of Modi and the BJP’s central leadership, which in recent times has done away with established regional satraps like Shivraj Singh Chouhan in Madhya Pradesh and Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh in favour of a generational change in leadership. 

What’s Road Ahead For Vasundhara Raje?

Raje, 70, has an uncertain road ahead of her. The BJP’s central leadership has not disclosed the plan for her and other leaders from the old guard —Shivraj and Raman Singh— who have been passed for the chief ministership. The party insiders, however, say the three could be accommodated within the party organisation or the central government. 

Raje’s loyalist MLAs, including former ministers, were repeatedly demanding that Raje be made the chief ministerial face before the polls. This did not happen. 

“Raje is a two-time Chief Minister of Rajasthan and was the most deserving of the top post but the central leadership’s word is the last. She will continue to work for the party but, at the same time, she will not be taking any major responsibilities in the state. She may be given a role in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, which are exactly four months away,” said a source close to Raje.

Three days after the BJP announced Sharma as the next CM of Rajasthan, Raje wrote “samman aur sneh (respect and affection)” and quoted “one will get more in return than the amount one would sow” in a post X (formerly Twitter). She is seen with several women draped in colourful sarees in the post.

Did Raje Miss Writing On The Wall Of Her Sidelining?

Raje being sidelined by the party’s central leadership was evident at several events where she was sidelined in the presence of PM Modi and Union Home Minister Shah. Moreover, her rivalry with former BJP Satish Poonia also came in public, with the close aides of both leaders targeting each other.

This became further clear when most of her loyalists —including former cabinet ministers Ashok Parnami, Rajpal Singh Shekhawat, and Yoonus Khan— were denied tickets in the assembly polls. While Yoonus won as an Independent candidate from Deedwana with around 2,392 votes, Shekhawat and Parnami did not contest. Her other aide and BJP stalwart Bhairon Singh Shekhawat’s son-in-law Narpat Singh Rajavi was also denied the ticket from Vidhyadhar Nagar from where he was a sitting MLA. Rajavi was given a ticket from Chittorgarh from where he lost to Chandrabhan Akkaya, BJP's rebel and an Independent candidate.

Diya Kumari, who has been named as Deputy Chief Minister, won from the Vidyadhar Nagar constituency against Congress candidate Sitaram Agarwal with a margin of 71,368 votes. She is the granddaughter of Man Singh II, the last Maharaja of Jaipur. She pitched herself as the “daughter of Jaipur” and the “princess who walks on the streets”. Kumari’s rise in the BJP is also seen as an attempt to project as an alternative to Raje with both having a royal lineage — Raje belongs to the Scindia family of Gwalior and Union Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia is her nephew.

“Right from the selection of the candidates for the assembly polls to the announcement of the names, Raje was not kept in confidence. This also signifies that the central leadership doesn’t want her to do much in the state,” says a senior BJP leader to Outlook.

Vasundhara Raje’s storied career

Vasundhara Raje was the first —and the only— woman to serve as the Chief Minister of Rajasthan.

In 2003, Raje became the first woman to be the CM of Rajasthan. Earlier, she was part of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee ministry. 

Currently, Raje serves as the National Vice President of the BJP. A member of Gwalior’s ruling Scindia family, she is also the matriarch of the Bamraulia family of Dholpur. 

Before her innings in Rajasthan, Raje served as India’s first Minister of Small Scale Industries and Agro and Rural Industries —now known as Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME)— in the Vajpayee ministry. 

In 2023, however, the BJP picked first-time MLA Bhajan Lal Sharma over Raje to lead the state. He will take oath as the CM of Rajasthan later on Friday. He won the Sanganer assembly seat by defeating Congress candidate Pushpendra Bhardwaj by 48,081 votes.