Gehlotji won’t get votes because crimes against women a big issue in Rajasthan, says BJP’s Diya Kumari
Kumari, 52, BJP MP from Rajsamand and granddaughter of Maharani Gayatri Devi, has become the talk of the town ever since the BJP denied the sought-after Vidhyadhar Nagar ticket to three-time incumbent MLA Narpat Singh Rajvi in favour of the royal.
Her stature in the BJP is said to be rising steadily and there have been indications that she is being cultivated to appeal to Rajputs and women voters — Raje’s core support base.
When asked whether she would be CM if the BJP managed to wrest power from the Congress in Rajasthan, Kumari said: “It’s the party’s parliamentary board that will decide who will be chief minister. Right now, our CM face is the lotus, the BJP symbol. The prime minister [Narendra Modi] has already said that.”
On whether she was being prepared as a “replacement” for Raje, Kumari dismissed comparisons with her one-time mentor, who is part of the Dholpur royal family through marriage.
“As far as replacement is concerned, nobody can become a replacement of anyone. Everybody has their own traits and merits. Such talk only works in the media but not in reality,” asserted Kumari, while speaking during campaigning in her constituency.
In recent months, Kumari has been at the forefront of the BJP’s attack on CM and Congress leader Gehlot, and has been vocal about women’s issues in the state.
Soon after the passage of the women’s reservation bill in Parliament last month, PM Narendra Modi had visited Jaipur on 25 September to conclude the party’s Parivartan Yatra.
While Raje was absent from the event, Kumari was conspicuous at the gathering where 500 women were selected to welcome the PM and showcase their gratitude for the passing of the bill. Kumari, along with BJP leader Alka Gurjar, was in charge of managing the conduct of affairs on the dais.
In August, when the party organised the ‘Nahi Sahega Rajasthan’ campaign against issues like exam paper leaks, law and order issues, and alleged atrocities against women, Kumari led protests in Jaipur and even picketed Gehlot’s residence.
When the BJP raised the “rape and murder” case of a girl in Bhilwara district to highlight the alleged rise in crime against women during Gehlot’s tenure as CM, it chose Kumari to hold a press conference in Delhi on the subject.
Speaking to ThePrint, Kumari alleged that “CM Gehlot made many promises to the people but did not keep them”, adding that women’s security, exam paper leaks and unemployment were some of the “most concerning issues in Rajasthan” and “people will not forgive Gehlot in this election”.
When asked about her views on fighting the polls from the “safe seat” of Vidhyadhar Nagar and rumours that she was being groomed for a bigger role, the BJP MP rejected the view that the constituency did not require much labour to be won.
“There is no safe seat as such. There is always a need to work harder and not become overconfident, she said. “As far as the BJP is concerned, every seat is a safe seat this election, while for the Congress, every seat is unsafe.”
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‘I did not plan anything before entering politics’
In September 2013, Kumari made a grand entry into the BJP in the presence of Modi, who had come to address Raje’s assembly rally in Jaipur. Ace shooter Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore has also joined the BJP at the same event. Both Rathore and Kumari were said to have been handpicked by Raje to bolster the party’s Rajput representation.
Soon after, Kumari was fielded in the Sawai Madhopur assembly constituency, pitted against tribal leader Kirori Lal Mena, who had revolted against Raje. Kumari won the 2013 election from the seat, but did not contest in the 2018 state polls. She cited personal reasons, but it was rumoured that Raje was against fielding her.
In 2019, Kumari was fielded by the BJP high command to contest the Lok Sabha polls from Rajsamand. She was also made the party’s general secretary for Rajasthan that year.
Speaking to ThePrint, Kumari said she was a bit apprehensive about joining politics after her father’s defeat in the Lok Sabha polls.
While her grandmother Gayatri Devi had set a Guinness record for her landslide victory from the Jaipur seat as a Swatantra Party candidate in the 1962 Lok Sabha elections, Kumari’s father Bhawani Singh tried his luck in politics on a Congress ticket in the 1989 Lok Sabha polls, but lost to the BJP candidate.
“I was a bit apprehensive about entering politics because I was not directly involved in it that time (1990s) and neither was my family involved much. I was involved in other activities such as social work, school and museum management, and was thinking whether I should enter politics or not. So, I took my time,” Kumari said.
She added: “In 2013, I joined the party in the presence of Modi ji and Vasundhara ji and since then have been working with full devotion,” she added.
When asked how she viewed her political journey so far, from becoming an MLA to MP and now again fighting the assembly election, Kumari said: “I did not plan anything before entering the political arena.”
“After winning the (2013) assembly election, I worked tirelessly in Sawai Madhopur as the constituency is quite backward. It was quite rewarding to get affection from people. I did not fight the 2018 election, but the BJP fielded me from Rajsamand in 2019 [Lok Sabha elections]. Rajsamand is a big and very different constituency and also challenging,” she said.
‘Congress MLAs did not keep promises’
In Rajasthan, while the Congress is banking on its welfare schemes, campaigning with the slogan ‘Kaam Kiya Dil Se, Congress Phir Se’, the BJP is banking on anti-incumbency and PM Modi’s credentials to get power.
Kumari alleged that “Congress MLAs in the last five years have not kept promises of fulfilling people’s aspirations”.
“Gehlot ji is not going to get votes in this election as crime against women has become a regular feature in Rajasthan. Every day, dozens of such cases are reported in several parts of the state but the Gehlot administration has failed to act. Paper leaks and corruption are rampant and (Congress leader) Priyanka Gandhi did not say a word on these issues when she visited the state,” Kumari told ThePrint.
She also talked about her interaction with US talk show host Oprah Winfrey, who had visited India in 2012 to shoot a two-part series.
When asked about her interests other than politics and what she had discussed with Oprah during their meeting, Kumari said: “Oprah Winfrey is such a warm and friendly woman and, to my surprise, she is very spiritual”.
She added: “We did not discuss politics but social work. She was quite interested in it. Our foundation (Princess Diya Kumari Foundation) is working on skill development, heritage, women empowerment and museums, and we discussed these in detail.”
(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)
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