The violence may actually work in her favour as it did 15 years ago. Already, Ms Raje has been playing the victim card.
Jaipur: Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje's “Rajasthan Gaurav Yatra” is a throwback to her “Parivartan Yatra” in 2003. The protest during her on-going yatra have revived memories of demonstrations by Gurjars and Rajputs who were clamouring for reservation before the Assembly polls 15 years ago.
She had bought peace with Gurjars, allegedly promising them reservation under the Scheduled Tribe category, but the Rajput community under the banner of Samajik Nyay Manch, an outfit floated by Devi Singh Bhati, had continued with its protest.
However, she led the BJP to form the first-ever majority government of its own in the state. The party had won 120 seats in the 200-member Assembly.
Two factors contributed to that historic victory. She earned sympathy of the voters as the attacks turned vicious. The sheer sight of a “Maharani” giving up the comfort and luxuries of her palace to brave the scorching heat of May and June was enough to melt the hearts of women voters. As young men disrupted her meetings, brandishing swords and hurling abuse at her, the support for her swelled within the Rajput community, which prides itself for being the saviour of women's honour. Particularly, the elders and women disapproved the bluster even though they supported the cause.
Secondly, the Jats rallied behind her. She was their daughter-in-law for marrying into the erstwhile royal family of Dholpur — one of the only two Jat royal princely states in India. Vajpayee had given them OBC reservation and now they had the chance of electing a Jat “bahu” in the chief minister's chair.
So, if the script plays out exactly as it did 15 years ago, Ms Raje certainly won't mind the ongoing violent protests by the two communities.
The second leg of her “Gaurav Yatra” in Bharatpur district was cancelled following threats by Gurjar leader Col. Kirori Singh Bainsla who had been spearheading the agitation.
The third phase in Marwar saw fierce protests by Rajput organisations who were livid over ill-treatment of former Union minister Jaswant Singh, vetoing of Gajendra Singh Shekhawat for the post of state BJP president and public snub to Jaipur royal family over a five-star heritage hotel owned by it.
The Padmavat controversy and police encounter of gangster Anandpal Singh served as fuel to the raging fire.
As she prepares to resume the “Gaurav Yatra” in Bikaner division, a Rajput bastion, there is a strong possibility of protests. But, the best way to achieve the objective is through ballot papers as the community had demonstrated in bypolls on two Lok Sabha and one Assembly seats in February this year.
The violence may actually work in her favour as it did 15 years ago. Already, Ms Raje has been playing the victim card. Seeking to evoke sympathy, she described the attacks as an insult to women.
“They want to scare a woman, but maybe, they are forgetting that woman power is not going to be scared of anyone. Even if I die for the sake of Rajasthan, I will consider it my good fortune,” she said.
What's more, this may again drive Jats into the BJP fold, who have been searching for a stalwart to fill the leadership vacuum after the end of the era of Mirdhas, Madernas and Olas.
On its part, the Congress was quick to condemn the attacks on “Gaurav Yatra” and rejected allegations of having a hand because it is wary that if any untoward incident happens, sympathy may override the anti-incumbency mood.