Jaipur: Vasundhara Raje, who is about to play her second innings as the chief minister of Rajasthan, has emerged as a charismatic comeback leader in the desert state, drawing particularly women and youth to her because of her royal heritage and her attractive personality.
Raje was for the first time sworn in the first woman chief minister of Rajasthan in 2003, and has not looked back since then as a popular political figure of Rajasthan, even though she lost in the 2008 polls.
"The state loves her. The way she dresses becomes a fashion statement in the state. She has become an icon for Rajasthani women," Puja, a college student, told IANS.
Born March 8, 1953, in Mumbai, Vasundhara Raje was the fourth child of Rajmata Vijayaraje Scindia and Jivaji Rao Scindia of Gwalior. After completing her school education from Presentation Convent, Kodaikanal, she graduated in Economic and Political Science (Hons.) from Sophia College, Mumbai.
Raje`s relationship with the state developed after she got married to the erstwhile ruler of Dholpur, Hemant Singh, Nov 17, 1972, but the couple separated a year later. She has a son, Dushyant Singh, from the marriage.
It was Vijayaraje Scindia, her mother, who brought her into politics in 1984 when she was inducted in the National Working Committee of the Bharatiya Janata Party that year. Since then, Vasundhara Raje has stayed put in the BJP and the party heirarchy. For two years 1984-86, she became the vice president of the State BJP Yuva Morcha.
Raje plunged into the electoral politics and represented Dholpur as legislator in the Rajasthan state assembly 1985-89. She was a vice-president of the state BJP from 1987 to 1989 and was elected to the Lok Sabha from Jhalawar in Rajasthan for the first time in 1989.
She was elected to the Lok Sabha for four successive terms in 1991, 1996, 1998, and 1999 elections, all times from Rajasthan.
After her stint in the union government of the National Democratic Alliance as minister of state for external affairs and minister of state with independent charge of small industries, personnel & training etc., Raje was appointed the president of the Rajasthan unit of the BJP in September 2002.
It was during that period that she undertook the "Parivartan Yatra" and closely saw the state by touring extensively, and became popular. Under her leadership, the BJP came to power with a historic win. It won 120 seats in the 2003 state assembly elections.
One major criticism that Raje has always faced is her style of functioning. Her party colleagues, including the seniors, dislike her to an extent that they openly criticize her as an autocrat.
"We never liked her style of functioning. She still behaves like a maharani (Queen). She loves sycophancy and has an autocratic style of functioning," said a party worker, insisting on not being named.
"We want a leader to whom we can be in constant touch. She her in last stint as CM was not approachable. We hope she improves this time," a BJP worker said.