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No party for Raje: why the BJP is unlikely to back Vasundhara

Panini Anand | Updated on: 13 February 2017, 3:15 IST
QUICK PILL

The pairs

  • Both Sushma Swaraj and Vasundhara Raje are caught in the Lalit Modi storm.
  • Sushma has the BJP behind her, Raje doesn\'t.

The odds

  • Unlike Sushma, Raje knew she was doing wrong.
  • Sushma is seen as humble, sensitive; Raje as arrogant.
  • Sushma and Narendra Modi are rivals, but Sushma has been an able minister.
  • Raje has antagonised many in the party, the Sangh as well.

The pack

  • Despite this, Raje is unlikely to go.
  • Sushma is her hedge. If one goes, how can the other stay?
  • Upcoming monsoon session and Bihar election could also dissuade the axe.
  • Hoopla over Yoga Day could overshadow the Lalit Modi saga.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj saw the entire Bharatiya Janata Party leadership rally behind her in the Lalit Modi controversy.

Even Finance Minister Arun Jaitely, who is seen as a rival, finally spoke in her defence.

However, it is unlikely the party will defend Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje with the same gusto.

Not a single BJP leader has come to her defence since her name surfaced in the Modi row. And each day the party does not step up to stand with her, makes her defence that much more difficult.

The reasons for this contrasting attitude of the party towards the two leaders are not far to seek.

For one, Raje knew what she was doing was patently wrong. She also acted secretively; she did not want her support for Modi to be revealed to anyone in India.

Price of personality

More important, she elicits very strong and divisive emotions within the party.

A senior party leader explained the contrast: "Sushma and Raje can't be compared. Their personalities are polar opposites - one is humble, sensitive and open to other opinions; the other is arrogant. Their political weight in the party is also different. Sushma stands tall and has many supporters, while Raje has hardly anyone to speak for her in Delhi."

Contrasting the two, another BJP leader said, "Nobody had expected Sushma to play second fiddle to Modi. But she turned out to be his best minister, strengthening his hand in foreign policy, giving him due credit as the prime minister and her leader."

Sushma and Raje are polar opposites - one is humble, sensitive and open to other opinions; the other is arrogant

"Her popularity within the party has grown. Nobody says there is someone else who can handle the foreign affairs portfolio better," the leader added.

As for Raje, "there was unease within the RSS and the BJP about appointing her as chief minister in the first place. Instead of building trust with them, her acceptance during her tenure has actually gone down."

"Many in the party, including some very senior leaders, would want her replaced by Om Mathur. She has hung in there by the skin of her teeth. There was a strong move to replace her before the 2014 general election. The general election saved her."

The dangers of being dispensable

A BJP source claimed that a change of guard in Rajasthan was not going to damage the party.

However, he added, given the importance of the monsoon session and the need to focus on the upcoming Bihar election, the party may not be in favour of sacrificing her.

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A BJP leader from Rajasthan warned against underestimating Raje. She was quite capable of counter-moves, he said.

"She has excellent relations with the media. And in all likelihood, she will try to ensure that, in the public mind, the focus remains equal, if not more, on Sushma's alleged misdemeanour and on hers," he explained.

Each day the party does not step up to stand with her makes Raje's defence that much more difficult

"If she is seen as a secondary accused with Sushma, she thinks she will be safe. She thinks it can't stand to public scrutiny that Sushma can be safe from resigning but she becomes the sacrificial lamb," he added.

The widening of the area of attack by the Congress party to include even the prime minister is also likely to help Raje, or so she thinks, according to party insiders.

None of this, however, is going to stop the momentum of the Congress's attacks and its demand for the resignation of both Sushma and Raje.

Opposition finds teeth

"The party will hit the streets and take the issue to the public. We are demanding the resignation of both Sushma Swaraj and Vasundhara Raje. The prime minister should break his silence and clear his government's position on the issue," demanded Sachin Pilot, Congress president for Rajasthan.

A BJP leader from Rajasthan said, "The Congress will obviously try to gain maximum mileage from this controversy. They were wiped out in the last assembly election. Raje being named in this controversy has provided them an opportunity to agitate and ginger up a demoralised party. They will naturally use this to revive the party in the state."

He was of the opinion that Raje may survive this crisis, but as a weak, ineffective and unpopular chief minister as "she is now sidelined and isolated in the party."

It is also possible, he said, that once the hoopla over the International Yoga Day starts, all these controversies would be swept under a mass of yoga mats.

First published: 18 June 2015, 2:33 IST
 
Panini Anand @paninianand

Senior Assistant Editor at Catch, Panini is a poet, singer, cook, painter, commentator, traveller and photographer who has worked as reporter, producer and editor for organizations including BBC, Outlook and Rajya Sabha TV. An IIMC-New Delhi alumni who comes from Rae Bareli of UP, Panini is fond of the Ghats of Varanasi, Hindustani classical music, Awadhi biryani, Bob Marley and Pink Floyd, political talks and heritage walks. He has closely observed the mainstream national political parties, the Hindi belt politics along with many mass movements and campaigns in last two decades. He has experimented with many mass mediums: theatre, street plays and slum-based tabloids, wallpapers to online, TV, radio, photography and print.

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