With waning popularity and angry civil servants, will BJP sack Vasundhara Raje?

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Rifat Jawaid

On Sunday, the BJP President Amit Shah, was in Rajasthan to celebrate the second anniversary of the saffron party’s rule in the state.

Applauding the efforts of Raje government, Shah said that the governance here was ‘exemplary’ and Raje had successfully taken the flagship programmes of Narendra Modi government to the villages.

Shah rubbished Congress’ allegations that Rajasthan had not seen any development work under her. With Raje also present on the stage, the BJP desperately attempted to project a united front amidst constant doubts that everything was far from being fine in the party.

Much to the embarrassment of the party, a survey conducted by Rajasthan Patrika on the performance of Raje government on Sunday said that 55 percent people were not satisfied with her government. According to the survey, only 39 percent respondent had rated Raje’s performance satisfactory.

This has come as a shock for the BJP  as, only two years ago it won a landslide in the assembly elections before sweeping Lok Sabha polls in 2014. But, the scandal involving Lalit Modi this year caused irreparable damage to the party’s credibility in the state besides being a source of huge embarrassment to Raje in particular and the BJP in general.

Her involvement in illegal financial dealing with the former IPL commissioner, Lalit Modi, and support for the latter’s immigration application to Britain had prompted opposition to demand her ouster.

Documents released by Lalit Modi’s lawyer had shown that Vasundhara Raje supported Lalit Modi’s immigration application to the UK in 2011. According to reports, Raje was a secret witness in Modi’s immigration documents.

To add insult to BJP’s injury, advocate Poonam Chand Bhandari then claimed that the former IPL chief Lalit Modi also allegedly transferred crores of rupees to Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje’s son Dushyant Singh by using a fictitious company.

Intensifying its attacks against the beleaguered chief minister, the Congress had also accused Raje of ‘illegally occupying’ Dholpur Palace, a government property.

A desperate Raje, travelled to Delhi on several occasions wanting audience with Shah and PM Narendra Modi. While Shah obliged her once, Modi had ‘refused’ to meet her despite her repeated attempts.

Both Modi and Shah are understood to be very unhappy over her style of functioning and her public conduct.

Such is Raje’s waning popularity that she’s now in danger of losing support of her trusted top civil servants in the government. They also include the chief secretary CS Rajan, who she had hired for the top job amidst much fanfare in October last year.

A top source told jantakareporter.com that Rajan, who was once Raje’s confidant, had now become ‘quite demoralised and disenchanted’ with her ‘autocratic’ style of functioning.

This source, a key figure in Raje’s team of advisors, said, “It seems Raje has learnt nothing from criticism in her first stint as chief minister. Raje’s civil servants including Rajan are annoyed with her for two reasons. First, her own authoritarian style often doesn’t make sense to them. Add to this is her son, Dushyant’s shenanigans. Dushyant has become a huge liability for her.

“In one of her key meetings where the billionaire businessman Lakshmi Mittal was also present, Dushyant arrived with unkept hair and unshaven beard as if he had not slept all through the night. His behaviour in the meeting was very abrupt. We could see that Mr Mittal was not too pleased.”

The BJP leadership has clearly run out of patience and seriously contemplating her replacement. The fact that many of Raje supporters were reportedly seen exchanging sweets and rejoicing the party’s defeat in Bihar too hasn’t gone down well with the party leadership in Delhi.

However, sacking Raje is going to be an incredibly difficult decision for the BJP as it simply doesn’t have a credible alternative, who could take over the reign from Raje. The party is also aware of the support she enjoys among the legislators with more than 100 MLAs believed to be belonging to her camp. It fears an imminent split in the party in the event that Raje is asked to put in her papers.

While the party continues to mull its potential options to deal with the conundrum, the Congress clearly seems to be enjoying the spectacle. If the last civic poll results are anything to go by, the party has clearly managed to cash in on the waning popularity of Raje and her son.

Congress had made huge gains in the bastions Jhalawar and Dholpur of Raje and her son, Dushyant Singh, claiming the results vindicated its demand for their resignations.

For the BJP, sacking Raje means a split in the party while continuing with her may considerably harm its future poll prospects in the state and elsewhere.

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