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  Opinion   Columnists  15 Oct 2023  Anita Katyal | Raje turns the tables on BJP; candidate list worries Gehlot

Anita Katyal | Raje turns the tables on BJP; candidate list worries Gehlot

The writer is a Delhi-based journalist.
Published : Oct 15, 2023, 1:37 am IST
Updated : Oct 15, 2023, 1:37 am IST

Not keen to project her as the next CM face in the upcoming assembly polls, BJP has yet to announce her candidature from any constituency

Former Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje. (PTI)
 Former Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje. (PTI)

How do you solve a problem like Vasundhara? The Bharatiya Janata Party is facing the same predicament as the nuns in the movie, Sound of Music, regarding the electoral future of former Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje. Not keen to project her as the next chief ministerial face in the upcoming assembly polls, the BJP has yet to announce her candidature from any constituency. According to reports from Jaipur, the party leadership is reported to have asked Vasundhara Raje if she would contest against incumbent chief minister Ashok Gehlot from Jodhpur’s Sardarpura assembly constituency. The BJP was convinced she would not be amenable to this suggestion given her cordial relations with Gehlot. However, Raje surprised her leadership by agreeing to the proposal but added a rider: She said since she would be contesting against a sitting chief minister, it is only fair that she be projected as the BJP’s chief ministerial face. This has obviously flummoxed the BJP which wants to put up a tough fight against Gehlot. Earlier, there was talk that Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat would be asked to take on Gehlot but there is no clarity on the issue so far.

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Till about two months ago, the Congress was perceived to be racing ahead in the coming Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections. But the Bharatiya Janata Party is said to have narrowed the gap with most political pundits now saying that the election promises to be a close fight between the two parties. There is all-round agreement, endorsed privately by many Congress leaders, that state party chief Kamal Nath’s over-confidence could prove to be their undoing. There is a growing perception in the state that Kamal Nath and his immediate coterie is acting as if they are already in power. On the other hand, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is going out of his way to beat anti-incumbency though the BJP is hoping that its decision to field a record number of MPs in the high-stakes contest will help counter the fatigue factor against Mr Chouhan. This is evident from the memes and social media posts doing the rounds with one titled “Mama ka bidai nimantaran” showing Mr Chouhan being carried in a palanquin, giving December 3 as the date of the occasion and the chief minister’s residence as the venue.

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Meanwhile, Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot is said to be worried over the selection of candidates for the Assembly election. Poll strategist Sunil Kanugolu is reported to have suggested that a large number of sitting legislators be benched in view of the strong anti-incumbency against them. However, this is easier said than done as such sweeping changes can lead to rebellion and there is every chance that the disgruntled leaders will be snapped up by the Congress Party’s rivals. Moreover, the MLAs in this list include a number of Gehlot supporters. According to the Congress grapevine, Mr Gehlot had called on Sonia Gandhi last week in this connection.

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While the Bharatiya Janata Party is currently preoccupied with the coming five Assembly polls, its leadership is also strategising for next year’s Lok Sabha election. Though the inauguration of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya tops the party’s agenda, several other issues are also being flagged to help consolidate the BJP’s Hindu support base. The Modi government is learnt to be planning a reform of the Waqf Boards which control and manage mosques, graveyards and other Islamic institutions. No details are forthcoming so far but the issue has the potential to raise a political storm. Then there is talk that the Centre will finally notify the rules of the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act which had triggered angry street protests three years ago. The legislation could not be implemented as the detailed rules are yet to be notified. The BJP also plans to test the waters on its promise to introduce a Uniform Civil Code. The party has apparently given the go ahead to Uttarakhand chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami to work on this proposal and implement it before the Lok Sabha polls. The response to its limited application will determine the BJP’s next move.

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When Rashtriya Janata Dal MP Manoj Jha recited Om Prakash Valmiki’s poem “Thakur ka Kuan” during a recent debate in the Rajya Sabha, it sparked off a controversy with upper caste leaders from his own party joining Bharatiya Janata Party members declaring it to be an insult to their community. However, RJD leader Lalu Prasad Yadav’s rebuke that the party put a lid on this discussion and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s decision to publish the Bihar caste census has ended up popularising the poem among the backward classes and Scheduled Castes who are feeling further emboldened to take on the state’s feudal structure. The poem is being openly recited by backward and dalit members of panchayats with supporters of Lok Janshakti Party also endorsing the move on the caste census survey. Ironically, they are all praise for the RJD, convinced that it was Lalu Prasad Yadav who had pressured Nitish Kumar to place the details of the survey in the public domain on the ground that only he could have dared to take such a step.

Tags: vasundhara raje, bharatiya janata party (bjp), kamal nath, poll strategist sunil kanugolu, rashtriya janata dal mp manoj jha