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Raje gets BJP state reins

New Delhi, Feb. 2: Vasundhara Raje will lead the BJP in the Rajasthan Assembly elections, party president Rajnath Singh announced today. This is his first big political decision since taking over from Nitin Gadkari last week.

Vasundhara was also appointed Rajasthan BJP chief, replacing Arun Chaturvedi, who belongs to the camp opposed to her.

Earlier, BJP sources said Vasundhara had conveyed to Rajnath there was no point in declaring her the chief ministerial candidate for the November 2013 polls unless the declaration was backed by an official position.

As a balancing act, Rajnath made Gulab Chand Katheria, Vasundhara’s biggest detractor, the Opposition leader in the legislature, a post she had held so far.

“I welcome the party’s decision. BJP is a family, we all have to be together. Everyone has a role to play. We will strengthen the party,” Vasundhara said after the announcement.

With this decision, the BJP has its chief ministerial candidates in place in three of the four states polling at the end of 2013. It is a foregone conclusion that incumbents Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Raman Singh will lead the party in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh respectively.

Delhi alone remains an issue after the BJP was unseated in 1997. It has not zeroed in on a candidate to match the sitting chief minister Sheila Dikshit’s charisma, goodwill and credibility. “Our position in Delhi is like the Congress’s in Gujarat. The Congress has not found a competitor for (Narendra) Modi and we haven’t found one for Sheilaji,” a Delhi party source admitted.

In the last two elections, the BJP had projected V.K. Malhotra, now in his 80s, but the gambit failed.

The Delhi BJP president, Vijendra Gupta, had persistently pushed himself into the public space during his tenure, hoping that his exertions would earn him the approval of the party’s cadre and leadership. “That hasn’t quite happened because he lacks a vital element, and that is charisma,” a source said.

There was also a view that the BJP had to search for a contender whose appeal would go beyond the voters of Old Delhi to the migrants from the other states, settled in the margins of the city.

In Sheila, the Congress found a leader who straddled the political distance between Old and New Delhi with ease: she was born a Sikh and married into one of Uttar Pradesh’s distinguished Brahmin families, belonging to the elite Kanakubjiya sub-caste.