As Rajasthan prepares for parliamentary elections at the end of this year, the BJP is in the middle of a power play. On the one hand, former Prime Minister Vasundhara Raje is celebrating her birthday in grand style with a big party at Salasar Temple in Churu district on Saturday. On the other hand, the youth wing of the BJP, the Yuva Morcha, led by a leader widely seen as its rival, has launched a simultaneous program to peck Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s residence over the issue of exam paper leaks.
All MLAs have been asked to help make the protest a success. For many BJP leaders, it is now a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea – should they stick to the party’s program or follow Mrs Raje, who continues to be a crowd pleaser? This clash of events deepens the fault lines within the BJP.
Vasundhara Raje’s birthday party is seen as a muscle-strengthening in the run-up to the parliamentary elections in Rajasthan. Mrs. Raje, a two-time prime minister and still one of the party’s biggest voters, is a popular figure in the BJP. Although the party has decided not to show a chief ministerial face in this election, Ms Raje’s supporters see her as a potential candidate for the post.
However, the Vasundhara Raje camp has denied that the birthday party is a show of strength. They claim that Mrs. Raje has been celebrating her birthday with revelers for the past two years. Churu BJP MP Rahul Kaswan said that Ms. Raje is the national vice president of the party and the young voter is attracted to her, which is why they want to celebrate her birthday.
“Two years ago she celebrated her birthday at Goverdhanji in Bharatpur. Last year it was Keshoraipatan and this year it is Salasar because partygoers want to meet her,” said Mr. Kaswan.
In a possible clash with the event, the BJP’s youth wing has staged a demonstration at the Chief Minister’s residence over the issue of exam paper leaks. The event will be addressed by BJP chief Satish Poonia, long regarded as a challenger to Ms Raje’s dominance, and Rajendra Singh Rathore, deputy leader of the opposition party in the assembly. Mr Rathore denied that the competing events hinted at any kind of power struggle in the party.
“If a leader celebrates his birthday, there is nothing wrong with that. She has been Chief Minister twice. There is no tug-of-war. The Vidhan Sabha was on these days and MLAs should be here,” he said. .
The BJP, meanwhile, has already made an effort to minimize the impression of a divide. Arun Singh, the leader of the party in Rajasthan, has been sent from Delhi to attend the demonstration in the morning and wish Vasundhara Raje with party executives in the evening.