Senior BJP leader Gulab Chand Kataria was chosen as the Leader of Opposition in the Rajasthan Assembly on Sunday. The 74-year-old was also selected as the leader of the BJP legislature party while seven-time MLA Rajendra Rathore was chosen as his deputy.
The choice of Kataria as the Leader of Opposition signals weakening of the clout of former chief minister Vasundhara Raje, who was recently made the party vice-president.
An RSS man, Kataria was the Home Minister in the Raje government, has a clean image, and is known for being straightforward. However, he is also known for being a bit short-tempered and occasionally gets carried away in anger.
In 2016, he had used foul language against former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and more recently accused Muslims of love jihad. He had said that if things didn’t change, there would be a Pakistan in every city.
Raje and Kataria’s political relationship has been a rocky. Back in 2012, Kataria had announced a 28-day Lok Jagran Yatra in the Mewar tribal belt, where he holds considerable influence, to position himself as the party’s CM candidate ahead of the 2013 elections. But he withdrew after Raje and around three dozen MLAs threatened to quit the party.
Kataria was LoP in 2002-03 and then again in 2013, while Raje was LoP twice between 2009-10 and 2011-13. Party sources said that unlike Ashok Gehlot, who has never been the LoP and didn’t take part in bitter arguments inside the Assembly, Raje didn’t shy away from the post and was keen on it.
Rathore, virtually the number one in Raje cabinet, has been appointed Kataria’s deputy. With BJP’s loss in recent Assembly elections, it will be an uphill task for Raje to assert herself against the Modi-Shah duo as well as the RSS before the state goes to polls five years later. The choice of Kataria signals just that.