Former Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia on Tuesday obliquely claimed that the majority of the newly elected MLAs favoured her while Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan chose to present himself as a loyal soldier of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the race in the BJP for the chief minister’s post in the three heartland states picked up.
“Tomorrow, I am going to Chhindwara, where we failed to win any of the seven seats (in the district). I have resolved that the BJP should win all 29 Lok Sabha constituencies in Madhya Pradesh and Narendra Modi should become the country's PM (again),” Shivraj told reporters in Bhopal when asked if he was going to Delhi to meet the party’s central leaders.
He also posted a video on X. “I had not been a contender for the chief minister earlier, nor am I one today. As a party worker, I have always carried out whatever work the BJP assigned me to the best of my ability, with dedication and honesty,” the Atal-Advani era leader, once seen as a rival of Modi for the Prime Ministerial face and who faces the danger of being edged out to make way for a next-generation leader, said in the video.
In contrast, the feisty Vasundhara, who looks determined to become the chief minister of Rajasthan for a third term, sought to assert her claim through a virtual show of strength. A steady stream of newly elected BJP MLAs, mostly seen as her “loyalists”, have been meeting her out of “courtesy” at her Jaipur residence since Monday.
The positioning by the two state leaders came in the backdrop of the BJP not projecting a chief minister face in any of the states and it was seen as part of a deliberate strategy to replace the old guards like Shivraj and Vasundhara with next-generation leaders. Modi sought votes in his name in the three heartland states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and the BJP leaders believe that the chief ministers there would be decided by him.
“Nearly 50 MLAs have met her since Monday,” a source close to Vasundhara claimed. The BJP has won 115 out of the 199 seats in Rajasthan. More than two dozen of them are believed to be Vasundhara loyalists and the former chief minister appears to be using their backing to assert her claim for the top job.
Although most of the MLAs who met Vasundhara termed it a “courtesy call” and maintained that the central leadership would decide who would be the chief minister, some of them hinted they preferred her for the state’s top post. “The BJP won in Rajasthan due to the good work done by PM Modiji and also Vasundharaji during her previous tenures,” said newly elected MLA Ramswaroop Lamba. He went on to claim that most legislators would like Vasundhara to be the chief minister again.
Vasundhara's meeting with the newly elected MLAs took place even as the BJP’s Rajasthan minder, Arun Singh, was in Jaipur on Tuesday to hold meetings with the state leaders. “The decision of the (BJP’s) parliamentary board will be acceptable to all the party MLAs,” Singh said when asked about the chief minister.
The BJP’s central leadership so far has refrained from making any statement on the chief minister choice in the three states — Chhattisgarh being the third. Home minister Amit Shah, who is seen to be a key player in the decision, met the party's Rajasthan chief, V.D. Sharma, in Parliament. Party insiders said it was to prepare for the formalities of holding a meeting of the newly elected legislatures to decide on the chief minister.
Party insiders said there was a chance that the BJP leadership could go for a new face in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh while retaining Shivraj in Madhya Pradesh. Unlike Shivraj and Vasundhara, former chief minister of Chhattisgarh Raman Singh is seen to be reconciled to the fact that he will not get the post. The party is keen to have a tribal or an OBC face as Chhattisgarh chief minister.