When the then independent MLA Hanuman Beniwal launched the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party last October, two months before the Rajasthan Assembly elections, he was particularly scathing in his remarks on former chief minister Vasundhara Raje. Despite Beniwal being a known Raje detractor, though, the BJP forged an alliance with his party in Rajasthan a month before the Lok Sabha elections. Beniwal is now the NDA’s candidate from Nagaur parliamentary seat.
Beniwal’s return to the BJP, coupled with the distribution of BJP tickets to candidates who are not from the Raje camp, indicate the increasing say of the central leadership of the party after it lost power in Rajasthan. Raje, under whose leadership the Assembly polls were fought, was conspicuously missing from the press conference where the alliance with Beniwal was made official in the presence of Union minister and BJP Rajasthan in-charge Prakash Javadekar and state party president Madan Lal Saini.
Beniwal developed serious differences with Raje while he was a BJP MLA from 2008 to 2013, and was finally suspended from the party for repeatedly criticising the state leadership. “For most of Beniwal’s political career he opposed Raje, and it was this very factor that brought him to the limelight. After the loss in the Assembly elections, the central leadership is now banking on other faces beyond Raje loyalists,” said a senior BJP MLA from the state.
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He added that a phenomenon like Beniwal’s alliance with the BJP despite him being a Raje critic was “unthinkable” earlier.
“When Raje was at the helm of the BJP in the state, for many years no general secretary (organisation), was appointed. The person holding this post is answerable to the RSS. But now, the central leadership is taking matters in its own hands as it prefers to deal with people who are not separate power centres and are subservient to them,” he added.
BJP sources said that another incident reflected the central leadership overriding suggestions given by the Raje camp — the candidature of Diya Kumari, a member of the erstwhile Jaipur royal family, who has been fielded from Rajsamand Lok Sabha constituency.
“The Raje camp was against Kumari getting the ticket in Rajsamand, and wanted some other Rajput face for the seat. Ultimately the central leadership’s wish prevailed. The relations between the Jaipur royal family and Raje soured after the Jaipur Development Authority sealed Rajmahal Palace in 2016,” said another BJP leader.
Party sources said the delay in announcement of candidate for Dausa parliamentary seat is also because of a tussle between Centre and state. The Raje camp is reportedly in favour of the candidature of former BJP MLA and current independent legislator Omprakash Hudla or someone from his family, while Rajya Sabha MP Kirodi Lal Meena is trying to convince the state leadership to give the ticket to one of his loyalists.
Meena and Hudla are known to be rivals.