Saturday, May 18, 2024

An effort to show a united face

Newly appointed BJP president C.P. Joshi being congratulated by former State president Satish Poonia, in Jaipur.

Newly appointed BJP president C.P. Joshi being congratulated by former State president Satish Poonia, in Jaipur.
| Photo Credit: ANI

In an attempt to balance caste equations and address internal tussles, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Rajasthan has given representation to the politically significant communities in its organisation in a move perceived as a “social engineering exercise”.

The recent reshuffle in top posts was primarily aimed at addressing differences among senior leaders. The appointment of Chittorgarh MP C.P. Joshi, a Brahmin, as president seems to be an attempt to influence Brahmin voters ahead of this year’s Assembly election. Mr. Joshi has replaced Jat leader Satish Poonia, who served as the State unit chief for three and a half years.

Mr. Joshi, who enjoys the image of being neutral, is expected to play a crucial role in solving the problem of factionalism. When Mr. Poonia was in the saddle, former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, who did not get along with him, kept a distance from the party’s programmes. She did not feature on BJP hoardings.

Mr. Joshi’s appointment was followed by the elevation of Rajput leader Churu MLA Rajendra Rathore as the Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly — a post which was lying vacant since the former Leader of the Opposition, Gulab Chand Kataria, was appointed as Assam Governor.

Amber MLA Mr. Poonia has now been appointed the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Though some Jat leaders described this change as a demotion for Mr. Poonia, the move was largely perceived as a balancing act which gives weightage to all the factions in the party.

The three appointments are expected to consolidate the Brahmin, Rajput and Jat vote banks for the BJP. While significant sections of Brahmins and Jats have been voting for the Congress in Rajasthan in the past, the displeasure of Rajputs was considered a major reason for the BJP’s defeat in the 2018 Assembly election.

However, the BJP continues to face the challenge of deciding Ms. Raje’s role in the Assembly election. Her supporters have been clamouring for her to be projected as the party’s chief ministerial face.

The Central leadership apparently wants to give her new responsibility during the election campaign. The meeting between BJP National General Secretary Arun Singh and Ms. Raje at her residence earlier this month indicated that attempts are being made to mollify her and take advantage of her clout and popularity among the voters during the polls. Though Ms. Raje may not be declared the chief ministerial candidate, she is expected to lead from the front.

Mr. Joshi has promised to take everyone along and avoid any situation that could lead to factionalism. After assuming office, he met the former State unit presidents and senior leaders such as Hari Shankar Bhabhra, Ashok Parnami and Arun Chaturvedi at their residences and released photographs of these meetings on social media.

Meanwhile, farmers have been worried about crop damage following the recent unseasonal rains. During his visit to Chittorgarh, Mr. Joshi used this to the party’s advantage by saying that the BJP-led Central government has brought down the cap for compensation for crop damage from 50% of potential crop to 33%, and accused the Congress government of “cheating” farmers, youngsters and common people.

Sources say a Scheduled Tribe leader from Rajasthan may be inducted into the Union Cabinet in an impending reshuffle, which could improve the party’s prospects in the Assembly election. Rajya Sabha Member Kirodi Lal Meena, considered an influential tribal leader in eastern Rajasthan, may be appointed a Minister to make inroads in that region, which is a Congress stronghold.

It is clear that the BJP is taking no chances and has carried out big changes eight months prior to the Assembly election to control infighting and address the concerns of different sections of voters. The BJP knows that it will need to show a united and inclusive face by accommodating leaders from marginalised communities.

Meanwhile, the problem of infighting continues to plague the Congress, with former Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot accusing Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot of sitting on corruption cases against the previous Raje-led BJP government. Every time tensions between the two camps in the party have flared up, the high command has stepped in to resolve the crisis. But leadership issues remain pending in the Congress.

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