Vasundhara Raje, 3 other key leaders not on 2 BJP poll panels for Rajasthan. Bid to ‘stop infighting’

New Delhi: Former chief minister Vasundhara Raje, state BJP president CP Joshi and Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat have been kept out of the party’s 21-member election management committee and 25-member manifesto committee for poll-bound Rajasthan.

The party has instead appointed Narayan Lal Panchariya as convener of the election management committee and Union Law minister Arjun Ram Meghwal as convener of the manifesto committee. 

A senior party leader in Delhi, however, pointed out that Leader of the Opposition in the Rajasthan Assembly Rajendra Rathore too has been kept out of the committees “to show parity and that the party does not want to invite infighting at this time by inducting leaders of any of the rival camps since that could cause resentment among the cadre”.

“That is why all four leaders have been excluded from both the committees,” he said, adding that senior leaders who were excluded from either of the committees may be accommodated in the election campaigning committee — which is yet to be announced.

Appointed convener of the election management committee, Panchariya is a prominent Brahmin face of the Rajasthan BJP with a longstanding affiliation with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). He has in the past served as chief whip of the BJP in the Rajya Sabha and was also seen as one of the contenders for the post of state BJP president.

Former Union minister Rajyavardhan Rathore and state BJP general secretaries Bhajanlal Sharma and Damodar Agarwal, besides former MP Onkar Singh Lakhawat and former state information commissioner CM Meena have been made co-conveners of the BJP’s election management committee for Rajasthan.

As for the manifesto committee, BJP Rajya Sabha MPs Ghanshyam Tiwari and Kirodi Lal Meena, the party’s national secretary Alka Gurjar and former minister Subhash Mehria have been appointed its co-conveners in addition to state BJP vice president Prabhu Lal Saini and former Rajasthan assembly deputy speaker Rao Rajendra Singh.

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‘To avoid infighting, send a message’

Though the exclusion of former CM Vasundhara Raje and Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat came as a surprise, Union minister of State (MoS) Kailash Choudhary too did not find a place in either committee despite that he was present with state BJP president CP Joshi when the latter announced the composition of the committees.

Union ministers Bhupendra Yadav and Ashwini Vaishnaw — both of whom have roots in Rajasthan — were also left out since they were earlier appointed incharge and co-incharge, respectively, of the party in Madhya Pradesh where polls are also to be held later this year.

A senior BJP leader in Delhi told ThePrint on condition of anonymity, “The decision to keep Raje and Shekhawat out of the committees was made to avoid conflict and infighting since both are claimants for the top post (chief minister) if the party wins in Rajasthan.”

“The party has (with this move) sent a message to both leaders that it will go into the elections under a collective leadership. PM Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah have said again and again that they do not want to send mixed signals at a time when the party is making serious efforts to unseat Ashok Gehlot in Rajasthan,” the leader added.

Speaking to reporters in Jaipur Thursday, BJP national general secretary Arun Singh — who is also the party’s incharge of Rajasthan — said “Vasundhara Raje is a senior leader and national vice president of the party and will campaign for it in the upcoming elections to ensure BJP’s victory”.

On the composition of the two committees, state BJP chief Joshi told ThePrint Thursday, “Senior leaders have been tasked with campaigning. Those made part of the election management committee will be able to give more time to managing party affairs.”

Though her exclusion came as a setback for Raje’s supporters who were expecting her to be made convener of the election management committee, party sources said that her decision to not take part in the party’s 15-day ‘Nahin Sahega Rajasthan‘ campaign against the Gehlot-led Congress government did not go down well with the BJP’s central leadership.

While she did convey to the high command her reasons for not taking part in the campaign, BJP national president JP Nadda has now taken up the task of looking after the party’s campaign in Rajasthan, sources added.

This is also a departure from the BJP’s election strategy in Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka where most prominent state party leaders were included in the election management and manifesto committees.

While appointing Union minister Shobha Karandlaje as convener of the election management committee in Karnataka, the party had included former chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa and his son BY Vijayendra in the election campaign committee for the state.

In the case of Madhya Pradesh, Union minister Narendra Singh Tomar was appointed chairman of the election management committee which also included his cabinet colleagues Jyotiraditya Scindia, Prahlad Singh Patel and Faggan Singh Kulaste.

This committee also comprises national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya and state ministers Narottam Mishra, Bhuppendra Siingh, Tulsi Ram Silawat and Govind Singh Rajput, besides state BJP president VD Sharma, his predecessor Rakesh Singh, Satna MP Ganesh Singh and Khargone MP Gajendra Singh Patel.

Party sources said that a number of senior party leaders were also made part of the manifesto committee in Madhya Pradesh to mollify them before the polls.

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)

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