Rajasthan BJP MLA Manvendra Singh is set to join the Congress in the presence of party president Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi on Wednesday. Singh, son of ailing BJP stalwart and former Union minister Jaswant Singh, as well as state Congress president Sachin Pilot and former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot confirmed the development on Tuesday.
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”.
Pilot said, “Vasundharaji (CM Vasundhara Raje) and the BJP should introspect because people who worked for the BJP for decades are feeling suffocated, and people like Ghanshyam Tiwari (who left BJP to form his own party) and Manvendraji are forced to leave the party.” He added that if this is the state of senior leaders in the BJP, “one can imagine the plight of common citizen under the BJP. This exposes the working style of the Chief Minister”.
Rajasthan minister Rathore, however, said, “The Congress is helpless and is thus taking help of people who have left the BJP. Maybe they have forgotten that the Rajput community, which was nurtured by Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, has been associated with the party since long.”
Rathore pointed out that the most number of Rajput MLAs — 26 — are from the BJP. “I would only caution Manvendra that he should beware the Congress, which has prepared to betray him. There will be no effect (of his leaving) in Barmer-Jaisalmer belt,” the BJP leader said. Addressing a rally at Pachpadra in Barmer on September 22, Singh had declared that he is leaving the BJP for “self-respect and pride”, as the party’s top leadership had failed to allay his concerns, or stop harassment of his supporters. He claimed that this was being done at the behest of party’s state leadership.
Singh, who was a Lok Sabha MP in 2004, was elected an MLA from Sheo Assembly seat on a BJP ticket in 2013. His rift with the BJP began within months, however, as his father, Jaswant Singh, was denied a ticket by the party for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.