Manvendra Singh Calls for Azaadi in Vasundhara Raje’s Bastion

Manvendra Singh Calls for Azaadi in Vasundhara Raje’s Bastion

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Not only did Manvendra Singh quit the BJP and join the Congress party ahead of the Rajasthan Assembly elections, but is now also contesting against sitting BJP Chief Minister Vasudhara Raje. The Quint met him in Rajasthan’s Jhalawar district, where he stands from Jhalrapatan constituency, a seat that Raje has won for three consecutive terms.

He is the son of Jaswant Singh, a tall Rajpur leader who, despite being one of the founding members of the Bharatiya Janata Party, was denied a ticket to contest the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

This battle for Manvendra is a personal one that he did not want to fight in the first place.

Vasundhara Raje has been winning from this seat for three consecutive terms, and the margin she is winning by has also steadily increased from 27,000 in 2003 to 61,000 votes in 2013. What do you think will work in your favour?

I think every election is a different situation. Particularly in 2018, where the politics of Rajasthan has taken a huge turn. There is an underswell against a particular kind of governance, which is palpable under the surface across the state. Coming here, I feel the underswell is also covered with a huge campaign against tyranny.

All polls have predicted a Congress win in the state, sir. You are Jaswant Singh’s son, you have won before, you are politically relevant in Mewar. So, would it have been better for you to stand from Barmer as opposed to here, where you are contesting against somebody who has  a political legacy here for 30-35 years, and has been an MLA here for three consecutive terms?

Certainly it would have been better to stand from the Barmer-Jodhpur side, but that is if I wanted to contest and I did not want to contest. So that question is not so connected to me because it is a question for the will to win, I mean, the will to contest, which I didn’t have. An offer like this, as the quote says from Godfather the movie, “Make an offer I cannot refuse.” So yeah, they made an offer I couldn’t refuse.

All polls say the Congress will win. You could have stood from a lot of other seats where anti-incumbency is strong, where leaders are not so strong, but they put you here, where there is a good chance that you might lose.

Sure, I am realistic about it. I am not being romantic about the results. I am realistic about the situation.

But don’t you think there could have been an easier gateway to being an MLA if it was from a different place? If they really truly wanted you to be representative...

I don’t think you should find a conspiracy. There is a conspiracy in the question. There is no conspiracy in my nomination from here.

In case you lose, is there something they (the Congress) have promised they’ll give you despite that?

I am not in a situation... My fondness for Rahul Gandhi does not permit me to have a bargaining power.

Why are you fond of him, sir?

We became MPs together and we continued to be in touch. I’ve seen him grow as he has a (sense of) responsibility, which most of us do not have. I have seen him grow into responsibility.

People generally tend to vote for a probable CM candidate from a constituency ki CM banengein toh badi baat hogi, they automatically come on the map. Do you think that might work against you as well?

It may. It may also work to my advantage.

Sir, it sounds like... Do you think you might lose?

I hope not. It could also work to my advantage.

This is an uphill task for you, when Jaswant Singh sir was not given the ticket for the 2014 LS polls, it wasn’t good for the Rajputs of Mewar, to say one thing. Do you think if you lose this, you will be able to survive the political game?

I’m sure I will. The goodwill is flowing enormously from everywhere across spectrum of communities.

Your wife has accompanied you on the campaign trail, does she like it? Do you have fights about it later in the evening?

No, we do not have fights like that, but like all women, she does not like surprises. Surprise gifts are okay, but you can’t be surprised with an election campaign like this. So she was not happy being surprised like that.

What was the surprising factor?

The fact that we didn’t ask for a ticket, I mean, nobody wanted. People wanted someone to contest from the family, but I was not keen on contesting.

You were expecting her – your wife, Chitra Singh – of contesting from here. Why do you think she is a good fit for the region?

A, because her village is not very far from here, in that sense, she is a geographical neighbour and a cultural neighbour in an immediate sense. And more than anything else, because she is a woman, she has an extra allowance, which I don’t have.

If you lose, sir, would you be upset with the Congress for making you stand from here?

No, not at all. This should not be seen as a conspiracy, but as a gesture which has great significance.

Rajasthan votes on 7 December and the results will be out on 11 December.

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