Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, who Tuesday found herself caught up in the Lalit Modi storm, was probably apprehending such an attack from her friend-turned-foe for long, with Modi becoming a recurrent itch over the past two years.
Right from the beginning of her second stint as CM in 2013, Raje has kept a safe distance from her former aide, even refusing to respond to his provocative tweets every now and then.
Raje and Modi have ties going back to the time Raje’s mother Vijaya Raje Scindia and Modi’s father Krishan Kumar Modi were friends. The two families had several common friends and got along famously.
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Modi first appeared on Rajasthan’s political horizon through the Nagaur cricket association and, by some accounts, loomed large over the government’s functioning.
He came to be known as a “persistent extra-constitutional authority” operating from the ramparts of the Rambagh Palace Hotel or the SMS Stadium right across the road.
Bureaucrats and IPS officers still recall Modi’s high-handedness in those days as they were made to wait on him for instructions on a variety of issues allegedly backed by the Chief Minister’s Office.
In two separate instances that left the bureaucracy red-faced, a young IPS officer and a senior bureaucrat were snubbed by Modi in full public glare during a cricket match in Jaipur.
In 2006, Modi acquired heritage havelis in Amber, allegedly at throwaway prices, to turn them into high-end luxury hotels.
Then Jaipur divisional commissioner’s report stated that the deal was made through Amber Heritage City Construction Pvt Ltd, later known as Ananda Heritage Hotels, which had Modi and his wife Minal on its board.
Raje’s dissenters blamed Modi for the BJP’s loss in Rajasthan in the 2008 Assembly polls and alleged that his interference in ticket distribution had cost the party heavily.
Later, after it came to power, the Ashok Gehlot government forcefully seized the havelis acquired by Modi and ordered a probe.
Raje, for most part of her tenure as leader of opposition between 2008 and 2013 had to put up with jibes from Congress benches in the state Assembly on her “long absence from the state” and “trips to London”, where Modi lives.
The first chinks in the ties between Modi and Raje were visible when Modi tweeted in October 2013 that Raje ought to be “careful” of Arun Jaitley, her “Man Friday” Bhupen Yadav and “your man (Dhirendra) Khamthan”, accusing them of “selling tickets for cash”. “Elections around the corner. Seems coterie of Arun Jaitley-Bhupen Yadav has started to sell tickets — sad.”
Modi further tweeted, “BJP might not win election in Rajasthan due to Gang of Thugs installed by Master Fixer Arun Jaitley into the core of Vasundhara’s camp”, and suggested, “These so called brokers Khamthan and Bhupen should be kept close watch on by CBI and election commission.”
He also alleged that “another bagman”, Raghav Shrotriya from Dholpur, was being used by Khamthan.
With Bhupen Yadav or Bhupendra Yadav, an MP, being Raje’s right hand man during the 2013 elections, who planned her poll campaign down to the last detail, an attack on him was in fact an oblique attack on Raje herself. Khamthan, her OSD, held the post then too.
By the time of the December 2013 Assembly polls, it was clear that the Raje-Modi bonhomie was over.
Last year Modi again launched a virulent attack on Khamthan and another close aide of Raje, press advisor Mahendra Bhardwaj, accusing them of opening “a shop in the CMO”.
At the same time, he maintained that Raje was a “wonderful person but surrounded herself with a crooked coterie”.
In October 2014, Raje looked the other way as BJP minority cell head and erstwhile Modi aide Amin Pathan toppled Modi from the Rajasthan Cricket Association by calling an emergency meeting.
Nobody believed that such a move could have been possible without Raje’s tacit support to Pathan.
The matter has since been taken to court, with Modi continuing to call himself RCA president on his Twitter handle.