Rajasthan’s former chief minister and senior leader of the BJP, Vasundhara Raje undertook four days of “Dev Darshan Yatra” from November 23rd to November 26th. She has once again proved that she is the “only leader” in the BJP who despite not being in power since the end of 2018 still commands huge popularity and mass appeal.

By Anil Sharma

In her four days tour covering Mewar and Ajmer divisions, the sort of response she got was unbelievable. During the yatra, she visited many religious places and also the families and workers of the party to show her condolences who had died due to covid or other reasons.

Thousands waited for hours to get a glimpse of the leader in each place she visited, and there was a long queue of people wanting to meet her personally. It took hours for her convoy to move even a kilometer.

The most notable part of this yatra was that despite no formal invitations being sent out to people in towns and villages she toured, people came on their own came in thousands to meet her or at least have a glimpse of their leader. The crowds gathered at sites were enthusiastic and were seen shouting slogans supporting the BJP leader.

Some may call it a show of strength by Raje, who also is the national vice president of the BJP, but it was her charisma and mass appeal that made the yatra a grand success. Around 30-35, sitting MLAs including another 30-40 ex MLAs, along with party leaders and workers, were seen with Raje during this yatra.Moreover, according to eyewitnesses, an average of over 20,000-30,000 people was seen waiting patiently at the sites she visited.

Raje’s yatra came soon after results of by-polls in two assembly constituencies in the state were announced. BJP not only lost the elections, but its candidates stood third and fourth in the Dhariawad and Vallabhnagar constituencies, respectively. Before the by-polls, the Dhariawad seat was represented by the BJP, and in one of the constituencies, BJP’s candidate also lost his deposit. It proved to be one of the worst ever performances by the BJP in the state’s history. Rajasthan has always been seen as a two-party system, and coming at three and four in by-polls results does not augur well for the party.

The main reason cited by the political analysts is the absence of Raje from canvassing. Similar views have been expressed by Raje’s supporters. The opponents of Raje, who blame her for horrific defeat in by-polls are also accepting the leadership qualities of Raje and her popularity. As they are aware, that without her support BJP’s candidates will find it tough to win in assembly polls due in November/December 2023.

Out of 8 by-polls held in the state since 2018, 6 have been won by Congress, one by the BJP, and one by Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) supported by the BJP. The Congress now has 108 members and BJP 71 out of the 200 member state assembly. These by-poll results should be a matter of concern for the central leadership of the BJP, as the party looks completely divided house and completely out of touch with the masses. Frankly, the time has come for the BJP after these by-polls results to rethink its strategy, to introspect, and to give due importance and a free hand to Vasundhara Raje, who still commands respect and fame in the state.

Party leadership in Delhi should be clear that she is the one who is capable of putting an end to the infighting in the party and regrouping and strengthening the party in the state before the next assembly polls.

The central leadership needs to question the present president of the BJP in the state, Satish Punia, for the debacle in the by-polls. As under his leadership, the party has suffered a humiliating defeat. Along with Punia, other leaders including the senior members also need to be questioned as it seems the present leadership in the BJP lacks leadership qualities and fails to connect with the masses. Time to introspect and mend is still with the party as assembly polls in the state would be held sometime in November/December 2023.
BJP central leadership has to read between the lines and have to understand that Raje is most popular, and no other leader comes even close to her stature in Rajasthan BJP.

Before this yatra, Raje had gone to Jodhpur where thousands wanted to get a glimpse of her, and earlier in March at the time of her birthday, the kind of support that she got in her two-day yatra cum birthday celebrations was immense.

Vasundhara is not any other ordinary leader, she is a two-time CM and knows Rajasthan politics inside out. She should be given more freedom and her advice should be taken seriously if BJP is to be strengthened in the desert state. There is no denying that sidelining her will cost a lot to the party. She has proven her mass appeal not once but a few times since Congress came to power in December 2018 in Rajasthan.