Manvendra Singh, former BJP leader and the son of BJP veteran Jaswant Singh, will take on Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje from Jhalraptan seat in the assembly elections. Singh was in the BJP and joined the Congress last month.
Raje has been MLA for three times since 2003 from Jhalraptan, a town in Jhalawar District where Manvendr is all set to give her a tough fight.
Vasundhara Raje is daughter of Vijayaraje Scindia – Shinde and Jivajirao Scindia – Shinde, Maharaja of Gwalior, members of the prominent Scindia royal Maratha family. She married to Maharaj Rana Hemant Singh, of the royal Jat Dholpur family, on 17 November 1972, but the couple separated a year later. Raje’s son Dushyant Singh is an MP of the BJP from the Jhalawar-Baran Lok Sabha constituency in which Raje’s assembly constituency falls.
Manvendra joining the Congress may bring votes of Rajput in Rajasthan though this seat has been a stronghold of the BJP with a mixed population of about 9-10% Muslim votes. In the last assembly elections, Meenakshi Chandrawat of Congress had got 29.53 percent of votes equal to 53,488 less than half as compared to Raje’s count of votes i.e. 63.14 percent and 1,14,384 votes. Earlier two assembly elections, COngress had also lost to BJP and Raje as well.
“I am honoured that Rahul Gandhi Ji and Congress CEC thought it useful for me to contest and I am touched by responsibility shown towards me. I accept the responsibility and will run a fair campaign,” Singh told the news agency.
“The Congress couldn’t find anybody in Jhalwar and they didn’t know where to place him, so they sent him here, but they forgot that it isn’t a battle of individuals,” Raje said while talking to the media.
Jaswant Singh has been in coma for four years. His son Manvendra got upset with the BJP since the party denied his father a ticket to contest the 2014 national election from Barmer, his home base. Jaswant Singh contested as an independent and lost to the BJP candidate.
The 54-year-old Rajasthan lawmaker quit the BJP on September 22 with a parting shot, “Kamal Ka Phool, Hamaari Bhool” (lotus was my mistake). He had also lashed out at the BJP for its style of functioning at the centre and the state. “There is a problem with the culture of governance and there is rampant corruption,” NDTV quoted him as saying.
The BJP won a record 163 seats in the 200-member assembly in the 2013 elections. Manvendra Singh won from the Sheo constituency in Barmer.
The Congress wants to cash in on his popularity among Rajputs, who form seven per cent of the electorate in Rajasthan and have traditionally voted the BJP.
Anyway, Singh is excited to be with a party he was against so far and praised Rahul Gandhi for showing his trust and supporting him when his erstwhile party neglected him. He is confident that Congress chief Rahul Gandhi will make a good leader. “In a democracy, a leader has to possess humanity. If one does not possess that, one cannot feel the pain of the poor…Rahul ji is a repository of humanity. I have seen him very closely. Very few leaders possess such deep humanity,” he said.
Rajasthan will vote in a single phase on December 7 and votes will be counted on December 11.