Jaswant, Raje sink differences

BJP leaders on joint tour of Barmer district

It is good news for the faction-ridden Bharatiya Janata Party in Rajasthan. With Assembly and Lok Sabha elections closing in on, senior BJP leaders Vasundhara Raje and Jaswant Singh have buried their differences to start a joint tour of the Barmer district.

The two senior leaders who were never seen eye-to-eye earlier shared the dais while addressing public rallies during a two-day tour of the district.

“It was a show of unity all through. Former Barmer MP and Jaswant Singh’s son Manvendra was in the driver’s seat. Raje took the passengers’ seat and Jaswant Singh took the back seat giving out the message that all is well between them,” said a BJP leader.

The differences between Vasundhara Raje and Jaswant Singh were out in the open during Raje’s chief ministership and later in the last elections. The internal differences among leaders in the district were seen as the major reason for the BJP’s poor show in the Lok Sabha poll.

Manvendra Singh who was then the sitting MP lost to Harish Chowdhary in the May 2009 Lok Sabha poll; and Raje isolating the regional satraps cost her a second term. Even Jaswant had to fight from Darjeeling to make it to the Lok Sabha.

The events lined in the last two days are also seen as an attempt to regain the lost ground for Manvendra in the district, with Jaswant virtually surrendering to  Raje’s leadership in the party affairs in Rajasthan.

The differences came out in the open when a poster depicting Raje (then chief minister) as goddess was created by a local BJP leader in 2007.  Jaswant’s wife Sheetal Kanwar filed a police complaint against the publishers of the poster that had Raje’s face morphed as goddess Annapurna, flanked by some senior leaders depicted as others from the Hindu holy pantheon. In a written complaint to Udai Mandir police station, Sheetal Kanwar has sought registering of a case against Hemant Bohra, publisher of the poster, along with other BJP leaders present during release of this poster on April 15 for “hurting religious sentiments” of the people.

In return, the Rajasthan police filed a case against Jaswant after a directive from the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances court. Cases were filed against 10 others along with Jaswant then the opposition  leader in the Rajya Sabha, charging them with serving and consuming “kesar” milk laced with opium during a “riyan”—a social gathering—organised at the BJP leader’s ancestral village of Jasol on October 31, 2007.

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