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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Raje vs Poonia: BJP brass tells state unit to put up a united show

The party likely to fight next year's Assembly elections without a CM candidate

Written by Liz Mathew | New Delhi |
Updated: April 20, 2022 7:05:30 am
The Rajasthan BJP unit has been riddled with infighting between the Raje faction and the state's official faction. Raje and her associates allege that the Poonia-led faction has sidelined her and those considered close to her. (File)

As the BJP begins preparations for next year’s Assembly elections in Rajasthan, the party’s central leadership on Tuesday asked its state leaders to put the house in order – the state unit should be seen as united. The state leaders were told that they should work together forgetting their differences, and refrain from making public statements against each other.

A crucial meeting of the state leaders with the national leaders also indicated that the BJP is likely to go to elections without announcing a chief ministerial candidate, sources said, adding that the leader can be chosen after the elections. However, the central leadership may consider the demand for changes in the state unit, they said.

In the meeting held at BJP president J P Nadda’s residence in Delhi, which was attended by former chief minister Vasundhara Raje, Rajasthan BJP chief Satish Poonia and Union ministers Gajendra Shekhawat and Arjun Ram Meghwal, the central leadership did not mince words while asking the state leaders to be united and work together ahead of the elections, the sources said. BJP national general secretary (organisation) B L Santosh and general secretary in charge of Rajasthan Arun Singh were also present at the meeting, which lasted more than three hours.

“The message in today’s meeting was clear – everyone in the state unit should work together. The house should not be seen in disorder. Everyone has to work together. There should not be any public statements against each other,” said a source familiar with the developments.

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The Rajasthan BJP unit has been riddled with infighting between the Raje faction and the state’s official faction. Raje and her associates allege that the Poonia-led faction has sidelined her and those considered close to her. But the state leadership has alleged that Raje has been running a parallel power centre in the party since the BJP lost power in the state in 2018 and they were not paying heed to the official directives.

Since distancing herself from the state leadership, Raje has been involved in displaying show of strength in the state, forcing the central leadership to issue a strict warning that action would be taken against those trying to create factions in the party. A rally by Raje in March in Bundi district, which was projected by Raje supporters as a show of strength by her, did not go down well with the national leadership, said a party leader.

After being absent from the BJP’s official programmes for a long time, her recent meetings with the party central leadership, including one with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and her presence at the oath-taking ceremonies of party’s Chief Ministers in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand had triggered a buzz about her return in Rajasthan BJP as its top leader.

However, Tuesday’s meeting appears to have given a relief to the official faction, which had complained against Raje’s attempts to “project herself as the chief ministerial candidate and the efforts to force the central leadership to declare her as the chief ministerial candidate” ahead of the Assembly elections.

“It was clear from the discussions that the party is not going to announce a chief ministerial candidate. The BJP will fight elections as one unit under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership and the focus of the campaign would be the good governance record and performance report of the Modi government at the Centre. The double-engine government will be the main thrust,” said a party leader.

Last December, Union Home Minister Amit Shah also had told the state unit that the next Assembly elections will be fought under collective leadership.

However, with the Raje faction making serious complaints against the functioning of Poonia and other office-bearers, “the leadership may contemplate changes in the state unit”, said a source. “There have been strong demands to change Poonia,” said the source.

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