New Delhi: Six-time BJP MLA Suryakanta Vyas is now the latest ‘rebel’ veteran in Rajasthan to take on the party brass over poll tickets, as she reminded Union minister Gajendra Shekhawat of observing propriety given her decades-long stint in politics.
Vyas, 85, has announced that she would be contesting the Rajasthan election, notwithstanding the party’s unwritten rule about the retirement of veteran legislators.
“I will fight the election despite what Shekhawat is saying. I have been in politics even before Shekhawat was born. Even C.P. Joshi and Rajendra Rathore touch my feet. He should learn manners first,” she said Sunday.
At the root of this sharp reaction was Shekhawat’s statement during the BJP Parivartan Yatra in Nagaur last week where he mentioned about the advanced years of Vyas and Kailash Meghwal.
“(Hindi author) Munshi Premchand has written in one of his stories that old age is often a repetition of childhood and such mistakes are made in childhood,” the Union minister reportedly told the media.
Earlier, the BJP had suspended Meghwal, a former legislative assembly speaker and ex-cabinet minister, from its primary membership for his criticism of the BJP’s Rajasthan election strategy.
Not taking Shekhawat’s remarks lying down, Vyas announced Sunday that she would try her luck at the hustings. “It’s Shekhawat’s Sanskar (manners) which is reflected in his words. I gave more years to the party than Shekhawat’s entire political career. As far as the poll ticket is concerned, I am active and I will fight the election to win,” she asserted.
Affectionately known as ‘Jiji’, Vyas represents Jodhpur’s Soorsagar constituency in the Rajasthan assembly. She has won thrice from Jodhpur city and as many times from Soorsagar.
“I entered into politics in 1952 at the age of 14 when Bhairon Singh Shekhawat was there. I have worked with all leaders of the party from Sunder Singh Bhandari to Vasundhara Raje. All have given me respect. Shekhawat is like my son, but when a son speaks against his mother like this, I feel hurt… He is a Union minister; if he thinks it suits him, then it’s fine,” Vyas told ThePrint.
Her friction with the party brass seemingly began after she lavishly praised Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot for sanctioning Rs 4.75 crore for the renovation of a temple of Pushkarna community in Jodhpur city.
Vyas, a leader of Pushkarna community, had met Gehlot 12 September and compared him with “kings and emperors” for his largesse.
She told ThePrint that she had requested the CM to sanction funds for development of tourist facilities at the shrine.
“Tourists arrive from far and wide. There is no such facility for them. Within two days, the chief minister sanctioned the funds. This has been welcomed by the people in Jodhpur. I have a good relationship with the chief minister. What is the harm if he respects me? We have an old relationship with his family,” Vyas asserted.
Her generous praise was seemingly not to the BJP leadership’s liking as the opposition party is going all out against Gehlot to brand him as an inefficient chief minister who hasn’t been able to control corruption and crime against women.
The resentment of Vyas and Meghwal is being construed as a reflection of discontent within the BJP state unit, especially in the context of alleged marginalisation of former chief minister Vasundhara Raje. It also came just ahead of the BJP’s now-launched four-phase Parivartan Yatra, which was launched at Ranthambore earlier this month.
According to BJP insiders, Raje’s followers are not only upset at the party’s hesitation to declare her as the chief ministerial candidate, but are also worried by the increasing involvement of other Rajasthan leaders, such as Shekhawat, Satish Poonia and Arjun Ram, in state politics.
“If we leave aside the case of ageing leaders who are to be replaced, then there is a growing desperation among many leaders that they might not get tickets under the increasing influence of Shekhawat, Poonia and Ram. Several leaders are also keeping their door open to join the Congress and that is why many are praising the CM… It also reflects that all is not well in the party,” a BJP MLA from the Raje camp told ThePrint.
(Edited by Tony Rai)