On May 31 this year when former chief minister of Rajasthan Vasundhara Raje shared the stage with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the two-term CM became the cynosure of everyone's eyes. Having faced the cold shoulder by BJP since 2018, Raje was suddenly seen not only sharing the stage with PM Modi but she found ample space on the posters and hoardings as well. The occasion commemorated nine years of the Modi government but the event also sent out a message to Rajasthan BJP cadres and leaders that Raje will be given prominence in the forthcoming polls.
After the humiliating drubbing in Karnataka where BJP was not only battered politically but was also accused of bringing in fresh faces, at the cost of seasoned old-timers like BS Yeddyurappa, the optics of Raje and Modi together gave the impression that BJP wants to take corrective recourse.
Two months down the line when Home Minister Amit Shah has constituted new teams for the poll-bound states, reports are floating almost to the scale of certainty that Vasundhara will not be the face of the BJP and that the saffron party will draw voters to the ballot through a collective leadership. This obviously is not something which is acceptable to Raje as she has never been known to be a pushover like Anandiben Patel or Vijay Rupani. It's no secret that Vasundhara's relationship with the BJP high command has not been very cordial because the party propped up her betes noires most of whom were supported by RSS be it Satish Punia, or Chittorgarh MP, CP Joshi or for that matter all time favourite of Amit Shah, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat.
Goes without saying but Raje is fidgety and edgy as the countdown to the polls have begun and the political space is being opened up for fresh leadership, almost replicating the Karnataka formula.
Minus Vasundhara, why would the BJP want to risk Rajasthan? Under the aegis of RSS, BJP is trying to cultivate a fresh crop of leaders and dispel the notion that it can't win Rajasthan without Vasundhara, almost the same trial and assessment that one saw in Karnataka. So is BJP endangering its prospects for the Vidhan Sabha elections? Probably yes, but when it comes to the long-term plan of the party which is trying to expand and nurture its base, the futuristic goals seem to be accomplished by phasing out the old leadership.
BJP's art of war is very clear in MO-SHA's regime, ravage and obliterate those who have tried to challenge the central dominance, demolish and tear down the people close to Vajpayee and Advani era. Vasundhara in the early days was seen in proximity with Advani and Vajpayee and moreover culturally and ideologically she doesn't fit into the RSS matrix very comfortably, so all the more a reason to show her the door.
So is Vasundhara running out of options at a time when her counterpart and Congress friend Ashok Gehlot's popularity is on the upswing due to multiple government schemes, freebies riding on a high publicity blitzkrieg? Sources close to Vasundhara have been saying that after having hard luck with Modi and Shah, Vasundhara is now trying to make a comeback through Nagpur. Same sources said that she did try to meet Mohan Bhagwat but the audience between the two hasn't yielded tangible results. Whether she will make another attempt to make her way through RSS headquarters is in the realm of speculation but she certainly is waiting for PM Modi to come to Rajasthan next week where she might plan to do some plain speaking. There is a remote possibility that Modi will give a blanket freedom to her because the party is planning yatras at three different levels where Vasundhara's campaign monopoly will not be seen.
Vasundhara if not heard will try to stop the BJP juggernaut in Rajasthan to 65 or 70 out of 200 assembly seats where in that case she will have the option of propping up her own MLAs wherein she will be manufacturing her indispensability as the CM face.
For now the firebrand charismatic Rajasthan queen is sulking and dumbstruck because she can see the writing on the wall. Sources close to her have shared that Vasundhara knows very well that BJP can very easily give up on Rajasthan, not clutch the victory rather than bringing back Vasundhara for the third term. Vasundhara has been banking largely on her individual religious functions to coil up the crowd, exhibit her dominance and connect with the voters, sending out signals that she is more than relevant on Rajasthan turf. Since 2018 there have been eight by-elections in Rajasthan and Vasundhara had kept herself away from the heat and dust of the campaign and BJP lost miserably in most of those polls. Assembly elections in the desert state are slated for November- December.
Political waters never flow smoothly and given the dynamics, if BJP all of a sudden offers to make Vasundhara the CM face, will she accept the offer is a million dollar question as that would be tantamount to extreme humiliation and ignominy. Be it Vasundhara or Ashok Gehlot, both are batting their final innings, it's now or never for them but who will clutch the victory, tiger or the tigress? Will Vasundhara Raje's swan song outsmart Modi and Shah, is something to be assessed in the days to come. For now it’s bye bye Vasundhara from Rajasthan BJP.
(Neelu Vyas is a senior television anchor and consulting editor with Satya Hindi)