The Congress Saturday announced that Manvendra Singh, son of ailing BJP leader Jaswant Singh, will contest the December 7 Assembly polls in Rajasthan against Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje in the Jhalrapatan Assembly seat.
The Congress move is seen as symbolic, following protests by Rajput groups against Raje over the film Padmaavat and the encounter of gangster Anandpal Singh last year. While Rajputs have traditionally supported the BJP, the Congress hopes to corner their votes this time following their disenchantment with BJP. As per BJP’s internal documents, Rajputs constitute 7.78 per cent of the state’s electorate and form the majority in 21 seats and have the second highest numbers in 17 other seats, in state’s 200 Assembly constituencies.
Singh won the 2004 Lok Sabha polls on a BJP ticket from Barmer and in 2013, was fielded as an MLA from Barmer’s Sheo
After leaving BJP in Sept, Manvendra Singh is Cong nominee against CM Raje
assembly seat. Months after that Assembly election, the BJP denied his father Jaswant Singh a Lok Sabha ticket, who then contested as an independent against BJP’s Colonel Sona Ram Choudhary, and lost.
Since then, Manvendra and his supporters claim to have faced “harassment, which was being done at the behest of party’s current state leadership” as the party’s central leadership “failed” to allay his grievances. However, on September 22, Singh quit the BJP for “self-respect and pride” and joined the Congress.
Raje, who filed her nomination from Jhalrapatan Saturday, said: “The Congress could not find any candidate and he (Manvendra Singh) was to be given ticket from somewhere and therefore, he was sent here (Jhalrapatan). But, they should know that it is not a fight of one person, this is a contest fought by Jhalawar and Rajasthan, which is a family.”
Incidentally, Singh was keen on contesting the 2019 Lok Sabha polls from Barmer, and not the state Assembly. In an interview to The Indian Express after leaving the BJP, he had said that “my choice has always been to be in Lok Sabha, I never wanted to be an MLA. It was forced on me”.
— INC Sandesh (@INCSandesh) November 17, 2018
He had hoped to focus his energies on contesting the Lok Sabha and had also ruled out that his wife will be contesting the assembly elections either. On being asked whether Chitra Singh, who has been quite vocal of late, will be contesting for state assembly, he had said, “I don’t foresee that… there is no such planning within the family.”
While Barmer has been Singh’s home turf, Jhalrapatan – 672 kilometres from Singh’s Sheo assembly seat – will be an uphill task, where Raje has a firm hold and has been an MLA from the seat for the past 15 years. The Congress party last held Jhalrapatan from 1998-2003, when Congress’s Mohan Lal defeated the BJP Anang Kumar.
In 2013, the Congress had fielded Meenakshi Chandrawat but Raje polled 1.14 lakh votes and defeated Chandrawat with a margin of 60,896. In 2008, Raje had polled 81,593 votes and defeated Congress’ Mohan Lal by 32,581. And In 2003, Raje had won 72,760 votes and defeated state Congress chief Sachin Pilot’s mother, Rama Pilot by 27,375 votes.
Manvendra Singh was among 32 names declared by the Congress on Saturday, which also included nominees to Jaipur, Viratnagar, Chomu, Phulera, Dudu, Hawa Mahal and Adarsh Nagar.