On 30 June, BJP appointed senior party worker and Rajya Sabha MP Madan Lal Saini as the new state party president. The post had been vacant for 74 days since Ashok Parnami’s resignation on April 16. The decision came after an internal tug of war between BJP’s central and state units and many names were circulated for the post during this period.
The current BJP government has been losing popularity in the state. Gangster Anandpal Singh’s encounter and the furore around Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s “Padmaavat” has affected BJP’s hold on the Rajputs as a traditional vote bank. After the Bharat Bandh on March 2 called by SC/ST groups, Dalits have moved away from them. The Gujjar community is also struggling with their demands for reservation and don’t seem too happy with the state government. This resulted in the defeat of BJP in the by-elections held for 3 seats – Ajmer, Alwar and Mandalgarh.
CM Vasundhara Raje clearly wants her ‘yes man’ in position. After losing the by-polls, the new party unit chief is expected to take some tough decisions to strengthen the party ahead of the state assembly election later this year.
According to senior party sources, the central leadership was hoping to make Union Minister of State for Agriculture, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, the new Rajasthan BJP chief. The CM’s camp had proposed State Minister Shri Chand Kriplani for the post. Names of Union Ministers Arjun Ram Meghwal, Om Prakash Mathur and Arun Chaturvedi were also being considered.
The appointment of Gajendra Singh Shekhawat was opposed by CM Vasundhara Raje’s camp due to the potential loss of votes from the Jat community over the appointment of a Rajput in that position. Former minister and senior leader Devi Singh Bhati openly opposed the nomination. Bhati claimed that Shekhawat is not a mass leader and appointing him might cause more damage to the party than benefit it.
The princess of the former royal family of Scindias opposed the move in her patent style – she sent her MLAs and ministers to Delhi to keep her claim strong. The ministers and MLAs from Raje’s camp stayed there for a few days but came back with desperation and no clear decision after meeting General Secretary Ram Lal, as party president Amit Shah was busy with the Karnataka elections.
This is also not the first time that she has dealt with something like this. In 2008, she did the same against her rivals while being appointed as leader of opposition in the Rajasthan state assembly.
Madan Lal Saini hails from the Maali community (OBC) and has strong roots with RSS since 1952. His image has always been of a simple and ordinary party worker. Saini belongs to Udaipurwati in the Sikar district of Rajasthan. The new party president won state assembly elections in 1990 and then saw 3 defeats in the general elections of 1991 and 1998 and 2008 assembly elections. During the Modi Wave in 2014, he was not even given a ticket to contest. Saini was sent to Rajya Sabha from Rajasthan in April this year.
The announcement of Saini’s appointment sent a shockwave in the state’s political corridors since many party leaders don’t see Saini as a good choice.
In the election year, the party president will have to campaign widely in the state continuously. Will the 75-year-old president be able to manage this? Will he be able to lead the party along with the new generation?