Jaswant Singh's son Manvendra to join Congress
"Manvendra Singh is joining the Congress in New Delhi tomorrow," Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee President Sachin Pilot told .
However, he told ET that he would not be contesting the upcoming assembly election in the state. “I am keen on contesting Lok Sabha elections. I will not contest assembly polls nor any of my family members has been asked to contest,” he said.
Singh said he would be formally joining the Congress at party president Rahul Gandhi’s residence in Delhi.
Earlier, Congress state president Sachin Pilot told ET that the “Rajput strongman” would be joining the party. “Manvendraji is joining the Congress on Wednesday, which marks the auspicious occasion of Maha Durgashthami. Many senior BJP leaders, annoyed with the working style of (chief minister) Vasundhara Raje, are also keen to join the Congress,” he said.
Singh had announced his exit from the BJP on September 22 at the ‘Swabhiman rally’ that he addressed in Pachpadra (Barmer). Since then speculation was rife that the journalist-turned-politician might join the Congress.
“His step is not unexpected. There had been cold war between Vasundhara Raje and Manvendra’s family. It all started with his father Jaswant Singh being denied the BJP ticket for the 2014 Lok Sabha election from Barmer – his home place,” said political analyst Bhaskar Trivedi. “It turned uglier when Jaswant Singh fought the election as independent and his son Manvendra campaigned against the BJP’s official candidate in support of his father. BJP had then suspended Manvendra, but the suspension was later revoked.”
Singh, on his part, had publicly said that there were major ideological differences between him and the BJP. He had also claimed that Raje along with two people in Delhi was responsible for the party denying his father a ticket in the 2014 general election. “PM Narendra Modi had said that one person in Jaipur and two people from Delhi are behind this conspiracy,” he had told media persons after the Swabhiman rally.
Manvendra Singh’s Area of Influence
There are nine assembly constituencies across Barmer and Jaisalmer where Singh’s family, which belongs to the erstwhile royal Jasol principality, is believed to enjoy influence over the Rajput community. However, the BJP’s alleged ill treatment to his father – who has been in coma since 2014 – is said to have won the family sympathy from Brahmins and Muslims as well. Singh’s exit from the BJP could also swing Rajput votes away from the community since it has been seething over the alleged fake encounter of gangster Anand Pal Singh, a local Rajput hero, and the screening of movie Padmavat across the country despite strong resentment among Rajputs. Currently, BJP MLAs represent eight of the nine assembly segments in this region.
No Impact, Says BJP
Rajasthan’s panchayati raj minister Rajendra Singh Rathore, who also belongs to the Rajput community, said Manvendra Singh had backstabbed the party and that his exit would have no impact on elections.
“If a person leaves the party out of personal frustrations, it’s like backstabbing the party which has made him MP and MLA. There will be no impact on Rajput votes. They have always been with the BJP,” he said.