Jaipur/New Delhi: The feud in Rajasthan BJP intensified on Sunday with 56 MLAs loyal to sulking leader Vasundhara Raje offering to resign but the party played down the crisis and tried to placate her.
Senior leader LK Advani, BJP president Nitin Gadkari and Arun Jaitley spoke to Raje over phone to defuse the crisis, a day after she threatened to quit the party.
56 MLAs out of 79 that BJP has in the 200-member Assembly offered to resign in support of Raje, a close aide of the Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, said. He said more legislators will come in support of Raje.
At a meeting of the core committee, Raje had threatened to leave the BJP objecting to senior leader Gulabchand Kataria`s proposed "Lok Jagran Yatra" in the state apparently to project himself as the party`s chief ministerial face. Kataria later decided to call off his yatra.
Supporters of Raje also demanded that the party declare her as the chief ministerial candidate for the Assembly polls due next year.
In Delhi, BJP`s chief spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad tried to play down the crisis, saying Raje is a senior leader of the party in the state and things will be resolved internally.
"She (Raje) has already announced that it is an internal matter of the party which is being resolved internally," he said.
There was speculation that she may go to Delhi for talks with the party leadership. Prasad, however, said a categorical "no" to a question on whether Raje was summoned to Delhi.
On the crisis in the state unit, he admitted, "There can be a difference in perception" among leaders which is being sorted out.
Sources said Gadkari had talked to her as well as Kataria
yesterday and wanted the matter to be resolved in the party`s Rajasthan core committee itself.
After the loss of Rajya Sabha seat in Jharkhand, the embarrassment caused by senior leader Sushma Swaraj’s anti- Hamid Ansari remarks in the run up for Presidential polls, and leadership problems in Karnataka, BJP does not want to further dent its image.
For the record, the party today denied that there was any rift in the state unit and that there was "no question of Raje quitting".
"You can`t call difference of opinion as a rift. In a democratic party, people do have different perceptions on a given situation. Vasundharaji is a very respected and senior leader of the party and there is nothing like a rift," party leader Balbir Punj said.
"BJP is one and it will unitedly face the Congress in Rajasthan. There is no question of Vasundharaji quitting," he said.
BJP vice president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said, "Vasundhara Raje is a senior leader of the BJP. Also, she is a mass leader. There is no conflict within the party. It is united in Rajasthan."
Playing down the crisis, he said, "In a democratic party, such type of minor discussions do take place at party forum. These discussions do not indicate any rift within the party."
On her part, Raje said,"It is our party`s internal matter and we will resolve it."
Along with the legislators, office bearers and members of the BJP Yuva Morcha also handed over their resignation, a Raje aide said.
The party legislators began to arrive at Raje`s official residence in civil lines since morning and shouted slogans in her support.
"The MLAs want undisputed leadership of Raje," legislator Bhawani Singh Rajawat said.
Besides Rajawat, Kiran Maheshwari, Rajpal Singh Shekhawat, Mohan Lal Gupta, Om Birla, Radheyshyam Ganganagar, Kalyan Singh, Prabhu Saini, Abdul Sageer Khan are among the MLAs who submitted their resignation to Raje.
Kisan Morcha vice president Subhash Mehriya said that the the central leadership should announce Raje`s name as the chief ministerial candidate.
Terming the opposition to his proposed `yatra` as "unfortunate", Kataria, who was Rajasthan Home Minister in the previous government headed by Raje, today said that some of the party leaders deliberately made his campaign an "ego" issue though it was actually aimed at benefitting the party.
Kataria rubbished allegations that it was aimed at projecting himself as the party`s face in the state and claimed that his 28-day-long campaign was to highlight the "failure" of Congress at both the Centre and state levels in giving pro-people policies, programmes and good governance.
"It is very unfortunate that a campaign which was aimed at strengthening our party in Mewar region, which plays key role in elections, was objected without any sound logic. It was not my personal decision, it was planned in consultation with the party`s state leadership," Kataria said.