| Vasundhara Raje wipes tears after being elected leader of the BJP’s legislature party. (PTI)
Jaipur, Dec. 6: Vasundhara Raje experienced mixed emotions today on being unanimously elected leader of the BJP legislature party. Proud of her achievement — she will become Rajasthan’s first woman chief minister when she is sworn in on Monday — Raje also felt weighed down by her new responsibility.
Grateful at being elected legislature party leader, the chief minister-designate tearfully recalled the special bond her family members had with Rajasthan and its leaders.
She said her late mother, senior BJP leader Rajmata Vijaya Raje Scindia, had written a letter in 1990 congratulating her colleague Bhairon Singh Shekhawat when he was elected legislature party leader en route to becoming chief minister. Her elder brother, Congress general secretary Madhavrao Scindia, wrote a similar letter to Ashok Gehlot in 1998 when the latter was anointed legislature party leader.
“Mujhe yaad hai kis tarah in dono ne mujhe janata ki seva karna ka path sikhane ki koshish ki thi (I remember how my mother and brother taught me to serve the people),” she said. The atmosphere at the BJP headquarters here was heavy as Raje sought her late family members’ blessings with tears in her eyes. Many others at the meeting were also overcome with emotion.
The chief minister-designate then prayed for strength to serve the people well and make Rajasthan prosper. She thanked the people, party workers and leaders who made the historic victory possible — the BJP had never managed even a simple majority before.
Saying she was aware of the responsibilities the chief minister’s chair entailed, Raje said the parivartan (change) she spoke about while campaigning did not imply a mere regime change. “Shuruwat abhi karni hai (The change is yet to be set in motion),” the BJP leader said, while admitting she was a bit nervous about the task that faced her – “Dar bhi lag raha hai,” she said.
Earlier, Raje was unanimously elected legislature party leader by finance minister and central observer Jaswant Singh, who found there were no rival claimants for the post. Gulab Chand Kataria, outgoing leader of the Opposition, proposed Raje’s name and it was seconded by 18 senior BJP MLAs.
Party general secretary Pramod Mahajan, who was overall in-charge of the Assembly elections, information and broadcasting minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and BJP treasurer Ram Das Agarwal were also present at the meeting.
All three agreed that the resounding victory in Rajasthan was historic and unexpected. They reminded the newly-elected MLAs of their responsibilities towards the people and the party workers.
Singh said Rajasthan needed public and private investment for development and assured Raje of all assistance from the Centre and his finance ministry.
He pointed out that outgoing chief minister Gehlot had not sought his help for the development of the state. Criticising the Gehlot government, he said “jhooth aur aadambar (falsehood and pretensions)” never help.
Singh made a dig at Sonia Gandhi for “shamelessly” saying during her election rallies that the Congress government in the state did not feel ashamed to beg for funds (“Bheekh mangne me hamein sharm nahi aati”). He said this was detrimental to the dignity of Rajasthanis, who have a proud record of being fiercely independent and self- respecting.
Raje later headed to the Raj Bhavan with Singh, Mahajan and Prasad to stake her claim to forming a government and inform governor Kailashpati Mishra of her election as party leader.
Mahajan said Raje would be sworn in on Monday in the Assembly complex instead of Amroodon ka bagh as announced earlier.