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Rajasthan Election | London Grad, Billionaire & A Royal: Is BJP Grooming Diya Kumari as Next Vasundhara Raje? – News18


The similarities are uncanny — both are women leaders, both hail from royal families of Rajasthan, and both have connections to Rajputs who have the ability to influence results in 85 assembly constituencies in the desert state.

No wonder, Diya Kumari and Vasundhara Raje Scindia’s names are increasingly being taken in the same sentence. But if politics is about perception, of late, there have been enough indications that made many question whether the BJP is preparing the 52-year-old princess to be the next Vasundhara Raje Scindia, who is 70 but still remains BJP’s strongest face in Rajasthan.

WHY THE SUDDEN BUZZ?

Late last month, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi went to Jaipur on the occasion of the completion of the Parivartan Sankalp Yatra, it was Diya Kumari — someone associated with the BJP for barely a decade — who was entrusted with the job of coordination on stage. Such responsibilities in a Modi rally are generally given to senior and trusted leaders of the party.

As the BJP has decided to go to all upcoming state elections with PM Modi’s face, sidelining top leaders — including sitting MP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh — it also meant not projecting Vasundhara Raje Scindia as its Rajasthan CM face either.

Though Raje continues to remain the most influential BJP leader, her one-upmanship in the state unit has often brought the BJP’s top leadership face-to-face with her in the past. Differences between then Rajasthan chief minister Raje and then BJP president Amit Shah delayed the appointment of a new president of the party’s state unit in 2018.

This month, Diya Kumari was seen in a large demonstration by Hindu organisations and Jaipur Bachao Sangharsh Samiti in Jaipur against ‘an atmosphere of fear’. They alleged that their shops were being targeted by a particular community. The Jaipur royal family princess’ presence was seen as her effort to transcend the immediate Rajput voter base and reach out to Hindus at large.

Now, many BJP insiders have started to wonder whether the BJP is grooming Diya Kumari as the next Vasundhara Raje for the long run if not for the immediate purpose. News18 reached out to Diya Kumari for comments but her representatives refused to react, calling it ‘speculative’.

LONDON GRAD, BILLIONAIRE WHO JOINED BJP IN MODI’S PRESENCE

Diya Kumari is the granddaughter of Man Singh II, the last ruling Maharaja of Jaipur during British rule in India. She herself is the princess of Jaipur and is the mother of the current Maharaja of Jaipur, Padmanabh Singh. However, going against the tradition, she married a commoner Narendra Singh in 1997, which ended in divorce in 2019.

A London graduate who pursued a Fine Arts Decorative Painting Diploma from the esteemed Parsons Art and Design School, the Indian billionaire manages the Jaigarh Fort, Amber, two trusts — Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum Trust, Jaipur and the Jaigarh Public Charitable Trust — two schools and three hotels.

It was in 2013 when the whole country was inching toward a political change with Narendra Modi’s arrival in national politics that Diya Kumari joined politics. She joined BJP before a massive crowd of lakhs, in the presence of then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and Vasundhara Raje at a rally in Jaipur — her home turf.

She fought and won the assembly election from Sawai Madhopur — a Rajput-dominated seat — instead of her home turf Jaipur whose caste calculus was more cosmopolitan. In 2019, she was elected from Rajsamand Lok Sabha constituency.

Now, just ahead of the Rajasthan assembly election, her name figures among the eight BJP MPs whom the party is “actively considering” to field in this year’s assembly poll, as reported by News18. She is likely to be fielded from Sawai Madhopur, the same seat where she started her political journey, say BJP sources.

“The parallel being drawn between Raje and Diya Kumari is the fact that both are from erstwhile royal families. However what is yet to be seen is whether Diya Kumari has the same kind of backing in BJP, which Raje enjoyed by being the handpicked choice of Bhairon Singh Shekhawat who wanted her to lead the BJP in Rajasthan,” says Rajasthan-based journalist Tabeenah Anjum.

Will Raje be to Diya Kumari what Shekhawat was to Raje? It doesn’t take a BJP insider to tell anyone in Rajasthan that it’s highly unlikely. What may further complicate things is the mass base Raje enjoys even today while Diya Kumari continues to be perceived as a ‘royal first’. What remains to be seen, though, is whether the BJP throws its weight behind Diya Kumari after the results are out.

“Vasundhara Ji is still a very bankable leader. But as you are aware, she brings her own set of problems as well,” said a Delhi-based BJP leader involved in the Rajasthan election. And there lies Diya Kumari’s chance of working her way up to become the next Vasundhara Raje — whom BJP can control.

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