The ongoing tour of former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje to six districts in southern Rajasthan, mainly in the Mewar region, has created ripples in the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party in the aftermath of the recent State Assembly byelections, in which the party suffered a humiliating defeat. The visit is set to deepen the divide between rival factions in the State unit.
Ms. Raje, also party national vice-president, is paying obeisance at some prominent temples in the region and visiting the families of the departed party leaders to offer her condolences during the four-day visit. Though she has declared that her tour is “religious” in nature, it is being seen here as a strategy to assert her dominance in the BJP.
This is the third occasion of Ms. Raje going on a show of strength this year in the shape of a religious or personal visit. Upset on being sidelined within the party, Ms. Raje went on a two-day “pilgrimage” to the Lord Krishna Circuit in Bharatpur in March and made a high-profile visit to Jodhpur in October to offer condolences to Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat on his mother’s death and to the family of the departed Congress leader Mahipal Maderna.
On Wednesday, she arrived in Udaipur to a tumultuous welcome by the party workers and leaders opposed to Mewar region’s seniormost leader Gulab Chand Kataria, including former Speaker Shantilal Chaplot and former Vallabhnagar MLA Randhir Singh Bhindar, who fought the recent bypolls as a rebel. Ms. Raje inaugurated a “Suhani Sardi” (pleasant winter) campaign of a voluntary group in the city.
The former Chief Minister also went to the residence of former Minister, the late Kiran Maheshwari, whose daughter Deepti Maheshwari has been elected an MLA from Rajsamand, and later left for Rajsamand district for visiting the famous Charbhuja temple in Garhbor and the Srinath temple in Nathdwara.
Ms. Raje will be covering Chittorgarh, Udaipur, Banswara, Rajsamand, Bhilwara and Ajmer districts, with her last stoppage planned at Sufi mystic Moinuddin Chishti’s dargah on Friday. She said at a public interaction in Chittorgarh it would be wrong to associate her tour with politics and affirmed that she had faith in “Dharma Niti [religious beliefs] rather than Rajniti [politics]”.
The BJP leadership is yet to come to terms with the rout faced in the byelections at Udaipur division’s Dhariawad and Vallabhnagar seats, where its candidates were relegated to third and fourth positions, respectively. The party had announced her as one of the star campaigners in the bypolls, but she did not join the campaign ostensibly because of her daughter-in-law’s ill-health.
Though Ms. Raje has maintained a low profile since the BJP’s defeat in the 2018 Assembly election, her loyalists have been demanding that she be brought to the centre-stage and projected as the face for the 2023 elections. Amid the infighting, the tour has given yet another opportunity to the Raje camp to challenge the increasing clout of the central leaders in the State unit with the demand for handing over the leadership mantle to her.