Manvendra Singh, son of ailing BJP stalwart Jaswant Singh, on Saturday announced that he is leaving the party for self-respect, alleging harassment of his supporters at the behest of the state government. He said his father being denied a Lok Sabha ticket by the party in 2014 marked the beginning of the rift with the BJP. Manvendra, who has been a BJP MLA from Sheo constituency in Rajasthan’s Barmer district since 2013, talks to The Indian Express about his decision to quit the party:
Your thoughts on leaving the BJP, a party your family has been associated with for long.
It was not an easy decision but circumstances forced it. I have a familial kind of bonding with Mr (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee’s foster daughter and Mr Advani’s son and daughter. And with this environment (that) we have grown up with, it was not easy coming to that decision, of leaving a family.
So will you be joining Congress?
I’m open to the idea, but as I said earlier, it is not my decision. It (where I go) is the people’s decision. The Swabhiman rally at Pachpadra in Barmer (where he announced his decision to quit the party) was completely crowd-managed, crowd-funded and crowd-led, attended by all volunteers.
But a lot of people chanted in support of Congress once you announced that you’re leaving the BJP.
Yes, because that is the sentiment that has grown over the years; and that is the reality on ground in Rajasthan anyway. So they obviously, in that sense, were chanting their preference.
How has been your equation with the incumbent Congress state president, Sachin Pilot, and former chief minister Ashok Gehlot?
I was in Parliament with Sachin so we have an old association. He has worked hard as state president, which cannot be denied. And Ashokji has a stature in Rajasthan politics which overrides boundaries and regions. (The 2013 Assembly election loss) did not do anything to damage Ashokji’s personal standing, which remains steady.
Will you be contesting the Lok Sabha elections?
My choice has always been to be in the Lok Sabha. I never wanted to be an MLA. It was forced on me.
You wife Chitra Singh has been very vocal, of late, about her convictions. Will she be contesting Assembly elections?
I don’t foresee that. There is no such planning within the family.
You disclosed at the Swabhiman rally that the state government targeted you and your supporters? How were they targeted?
On a Sunday, a person is transferred from Jodhpur to Dholpur. It started soon after Lok Sabha elections (in 2014).
How do you view the state government’s functioning?
It’s not just a question of making bad administrative decisions. It is also a question of sociology of governance, and sociology of governance has been very poor. Because politics should not always only be about politics, it should also be about social leadership, and social leadership has been seriously lacking.
What has been the difference between Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje’s previous tenure between 2003 and 2008 and the current tenure since 2013?
The structure and the functioning of the CMO is a big change from her last government. (Also) I never went out of my way to speak to anybody because in these four and a half years the priority has been my father’s health. And whatever time I get from Delhi, I spend in Barmer and Sheo.
How has been your equation with the Prime Minister and the chief minister?
My equation with him (the PM) has been as it was before. He knows me from my The Indian Express days. (As for the CM), I have known her and her family. Nobody knows her and her family better than I do in Rajasthan. Nobody has had a closer relationship with her than I have had in Rajasthan. (But) I didn’t try to reach her and neither did she… till recent past.
Do you think the BJP government will return to power in the state?
No, I don’t think so. People don’t want it. The reasons being: culture of governance in the state, corruption, and the national phenomenon of rising prices.
Your views on the rise in hate crimes in the state and saffronisation of education.
The sociology of governance has been pathetic. Attempts by ruling parties have always been there, in terms of pushing their agenda on education because that is assumed to be the source of future votes or goodwill. But my question is larger… is it the business of the state to write textbooks. Or do you think the society is insufficiently capable of understanding textbooks not written by the state?
Of late, there have been frequent protests by Rajputs against the state government.
I would go back to my earlier argument — sociology of governance — because that explains a lot in terms of unfortunate fact of politics in India being determined by caste and communal cooperation.
Do you see it changing?
I think there is always a stop to it. It is a pattern which probably has happened earlier, in the 1920s and 1930s. I have the liberty to blame the BJP (since I’ve left) but I’m still a media man, in essence, and I think it is the laziness of the media, which did not analyse the Alwar Lok Sabha by-election in a proper socio-psychological manner. If you look at the result, it is remarkable. The making of the laboratory of polarisation and counter mobilisation could not have been possible without the huge amount of Hindu mobilisation against this pattern.
(Still), as of now, the planning seems to be heading in that direction (of the BJP trying to polarise) but they are not going to take people for granted. I think there are not that many takers anymore.