Can Raje, fighting tooth and nail, break the spell?

Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje. File photo

Back in February, after the BJP lost the by-elections in Rajasthan, many thought curtains were falling for Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje’s three-decade-long political career.

But Raje has managed to have her say even after that, whether it was about the party’s choice for state chief or about retaining her loyalists. She also made BJP declare her the chief ministerial candidate.

She even managed to have most of her MLAs repeated even after the exit polls predicted that the party will lose under her leadership.

Once again, the 65-year-old leader has proved her detractors wrong and is currently touring the state, campaigning fiercely in a bid to return to power.

However, the road isn’t smooth for either her or for the party. The BJP is battling not just anti-incumbency but also disgruntled party workers and communities.

The protest at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally in Jhunjhunu in March was a wake-up call for her. The slogan that was heard at Modi’s rally was: “Modi tujhse bair nahin, Vasundhara teri khair nahin” (Modi, We don’t hold anything against you, but Vasundhara, beware of us).

Soon enough, she was holding the 40-day Gaurav Yatra across the state to connect with the voters, but the ‘yatra’ too saw protests.

The contest in her home seat of Jhalrapatan has turned into a ‘battle royale’, with the Congress fielding another a member of the erstwhile royalty, Jaswant Singh’s son Manvendra Singh.

Even though she is confident of winning a fourth time, Raje cannot ignore the Rajput vs Rajput equation.

Even here, Raje has promptly hit back by fielding BJP’s lone Muslim candidate against state Congress chief Sachin Pilot in Tonk, which is dominated by Gujjar and Muslim communities.

The 2018 Assembly polls, apart from being the semi-finals to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, will also decide Raje’s future in the BJP and Rajasthan.

If she wins, she will be making history — none of her predecessors have been able to beat anti-incumbency in the last five elections. And if she loses, that will be the end of her political clout.

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Can Raje, fighting tooth and nail, break the spell?

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