Veteran BJP leader Jaswant Singh’s son and ex-MLA Manvendra Singh joined the Congress on Wednesday, ahead of the assembly polls in Rajasthan in December.
Singh, 54, who won Barmer’s Sheo constituency as the BJP candidate in 2013 assembly elections, had announced at a rally last month that he is leaving the Bharatiya Janata Party. “Kamal ka Phool Badi Bhool’, he had said then, claiming that going with the BJP’s election symbol, the lotus, was a “big mistake”.
While Congress leaders asserted that the move will help bring Rajput votes to the party in the upcoming Vidhan Sabha elections, Rajasthan minister and BJP leader Rajendra Rathore said Singh’s exit will have “no effect in Barmer-Jaisalmer belt”.
“The Congress is helpless. Therefore it is adopting sidelined BJP leaders. It is his personal decision but this is a politically wrong decision. He is not going to get anything with this,” PTI quoted Rathore as saying.
Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee president Sachin Pilot welcomed Singh into the party, saying it will strengthen the party. “There is a long list of leaders quitting the BJP and the party should introspect why this is happening,” he said. He added the party will ensure his active participation in the upcoming assembly elections in the state.
In western Rajasthan, the Rajput vote is often considered a deciding factor on many seats.
The Congress is also hoping to get the support of communities like the Rajpurohits, Charans and Prajapats with Singh joining the party.
Manvendra Singh won Barmer’s Sheo assembly constituency in 2013 with a margin of 31,425 votes. His father Jaswant Singh, who is in coma for the last four years, was denied ticket by the BJP from the Barmer-Jaisalmer constituency in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
He then contested elections as an independent and lost the seat to BJP’s Sonaram, who had joined the party after switching from the Congress.
There was resentment among Jaswant Singh supporters over the denial of the BJP ticket for the veteran, and they blamed Vasundhara Raje for this. These supporters had then rallied around his son Manvendra Singh, calling it an issue of ‘swabhiman’ or self-respect.