The Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) has repeatedly hinted that ‘Lotus’ will be the only symbol for the party in the assembly elections that are just two months away.
While the party has not projected former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje or anyone else as its face, a flurry of meetings and the induction of Raje-loyalist Devi Singh Bhati into the party after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally in the state have lifted the hopes of Raje’s supporters.
Modi’s rally in Jaipur on Monday made it clear that the BJP has no favourites to become the party’s face in the upcoming polls. In the rally, he said, “I want to tell every BJP worker that our identity and pride is only the lotus.”
Raje camp hopeful after Bhati’s induction
In view of the polls, while the BJP is banking on collective leadership, Raje’s supporters have been demanding to make her the BJP’s face.
Three days after Modi’s rally, the BJP inducted Bhati, a Raje-loyalist and an influential Rajput leader, into the party after four years. His induction came a day after Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP President JP Nadda held separate talks with the Raje and the party’s ‘Rajasthan core group’.
Bhati, 77, is a seven-time MLA from Kolayat seat. He resigned from the saffron party in 2019 after the party gave a Lok Sabha ticket to his rival Arjun Ram Meghwal —Union Law Minister— from Bikaner. Bhati was not only vocal about it but he had also campaigned against Meghwal publicly.
As per the sources in the BJP, Bhati’s re-entry took place after Raje convinced the BJP’s top leadership to allow him and some other leaders to return as it would be beneficial to the party.
“In the last week, several talks have happened between Raje and the senior BJP leaders and the central leadership is clear about her importance and cannot sideline her. The recent induction of Bhati is an example which clearly suggests that Raje would have a say in the ticket-distribution,” said a source close to Raje to Outlook.
However, other party leaders also see Bhati’s induction as an appeasement of Rajput voters.
“His induction in the party could be a game-changer as far as the Rajput voters are concerned. Right now, the party wants to take all communities together. More than pleasing Raje, the BJP wants to give a tough time to Congress by bringing a stalwart community leaders into its fold,” said a senior BJP leader to Outlook on the condition of anonymity.
Factionalism in Rajasthan BJP
Owing to the previous infighting in the party due to factionalism, it is an open secret that the BJP’s central leadership is not projecting Raje as the chief ministerial candidate.
Raje was present at the flagging-off ceremonies of Parivartan Sankalp Yatras but, unlike in the run-up to the previous assembly elections in 2018, did not participate in the yatras. In 2018, she was the face of BJP from the onset. Similarly, her exclusion from the BJP’s Election Manifesto Committee and Election Management Committee have also made her feel disgruntled.
However, after the recent meetings with the top brass leaders, two-time CM Raje is leaving no stone unturned to ensure that she gets her due. Just ahead of Modi’s rally in Jaipur, Raje, who was earlier absent from the BJP’s Parivartan Sankalp Yatras, addressed two meetings, participated in BJP ‘core committee’ deliberations, and met Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat — seen as her rival. A day before Modi’s rally, Raje tweeted and appealed to the people to join. She said, “Let’s come together and bring change. Modi will guide the BJP workers.”
Last week, Raje organised a meeting of women where she thanked Modi for the passage of the Women Reservation Bill. She said, “Women have been my strength and I would not leave Rajasthan. I will serve till I am alive.”