Vasundhara Raje: Going, going, still not gone

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Jaipur:  In just a week, Maharashtra votes for its next government. The elections here are also impacting the political destiny of a leader from Rajasthan, Vasundhara Raje.

Her supporters are now demanding that she be used to campaign for the BJP in Maharashtra.

"Vasundhara Raje has a strong base in Maharashtra because of her family heritage and her historic roots as a Maratha. So, if she is used in the campaign, party candidates there will gain a lot," says Rajendra Singh, BJP MLA from Rajasthan.

Not expressed as clearly is the agenda that any role in the Maharashtra elections would also help Raje defer the resignation that her party has been chasing for months.

Vasundhara is currently Leader of the Opposition in Rajasthan. Her party president, Rajnath Singh, has been pushing her to quit, as punishment for the BJP's defeat, first in the state elections in December, and then in the general elections in May.

Raje has sidestepped this deftly, dribbling Rajnath first with a revolt by local MLAs, then ill-health (her own), and finally, astrology - the stars have suggested it's a bad time for change.

Late last month, though, Raje was reportedly persuaded to finally step down by LK Advani, in return for a senior position in the party.

But because Raje belongs to the royal family of the Scindias, a major Maratha clan, senior leaders now feel that her resignation could hurt the BJP in Maharashtra.

Officially, the party says it doesn't have the time to deal with Raje right now. "We are pre-occupied with flood relief - and elections in three states. Things will have to wait, and so will Vasundhara," says Venkaiah Naidu, senior BJP leader.

But many feel that the endless dithering over when she will resign is a bad sign, internally, and to the world at large. "The party has a code of discipline, it has some rules but she is openly flouting everything. This terrible situation is giving all of us a bad name," complains Hari Shanker Bhabra, senior BJP Leader, Rajasthan.

Either way, the party needs to make up its mind soon. Municipal elections in Rajasthan are slated for next month, and any confusion over who's the real leader of the party could make this the third election that the BJP loses sleep over in this part of the country.

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