Rajasthan Polls: What Manvendra’s Move to Congress Means for BJP

In an election year, son of former union minister Jaswant Singh switching over to Congress is a jolt to BJP.

3 min read
Image of Manvendra Singh used for representational purposes.

In a major jolt to the ruling BJP government in Rajasthan, Manvendra Singh Jasol, son of one of the founding members of the BJP and a former Union minister Jaswant Singh, has joined the Congress – only a couple of months before the state assembly elections.

Manvendra had announced his exit from BJP on 22 September during the Swabhiman Rally called by him in Pachpadra in Barmer district, where he also controversially said, “Kamal Ka Phool Meri Bhool” (‘kamal’ means lotus in Hindi – ‘(identifying) with the lotus flower (the BJP symbol) was a mistake).

Manvendra Will Strengthen State Congress

Courteous, polite and charismatic, Manvendra, who hails from Western part of Rajasthan and is a Rajput by caste, will make a difference in the upcoming polls to be held on 7 December in Rajasthan. Both the Congress and the BJP know about it. The Rajput community is already angry with the BJP in Rajasthan. Rajputs constitute over 7-8 percent of the total voteshare in Rajasthan, and is a dominating force in around 30-35 of the total 200 constituencies in the state.

And the Congress, with the political acumen of Ashok Gehlot and State President Sachin Pilot have grabbed this opportunity and welcomed Manvendra. 

AICC General Secretary and State In-Charge Avinash Pande, also played an important role in this.

The Rajput community’s anger is basically directed at the way Jaswant Singh was treated by the BJP including Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. The veteran BJP leader was not only denied a ticket, but to add salt to injury, his ticket was offered to Col Sonaram who, just before the Lok Sabha polls had switched over from the Congress to the BJP.

Jaswant Singh considered it as matter of prestige, and fought as an independent candidate from Barmer-Jaisalmer constituency. Though he lost the elections, he won Rajput sympathy.

BJP Facing Rajput Anger

The BJP is also facing the heat from the Rajput community who were traditionally BJP loyalists, over the encounter of gangster Anandpal, and Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati being Padmavat. They also voted against BJP during the recent by-polls for two Lok Sabha seats and one assembly seat, held earlier in January 2018.

In the Lok Sabha by-polls the Congress won both Alwar and Ajmer and also the assembly constituency of Mandalgarh.

Jaswant Singh’s family has clout especially in western Rajasthan as they hail from this area, and this part of Rajasthan has a large Rajput population.

However, the BJP does not think that Manvendra Singh’s (who is an MLA from Sheo in Barmer district) move to the Congress will make any difference.

To this effect, Rajendra Singh Rathore (a Rajput leader and a minister in Vasundhara Raje’s Cabinet) has said that, “his (Manvendra) exit will make no difference to Rajput community.”


Panic in BJP Rajasthan

The panic in the BJP camp is evident from the fact that soon after Manvendra announced his exit, at least two to three BJP MLAs and ministers (mainly Rajputs) came forward to speak on the issue. Rao Rajendra Singh, the deputy speaker in the present Rajasthan Assembly, was quoted as saying, “Individuals are not bigger than the party”. Even Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Union minister and another BJP leader, also came out to speak against Manvendra’s decision and said, “Congress has always mistreated Rajputs.”

But one thing is very clear: Manvendra will surely give an edge to the Congress, which till now only had a couple of strong Rajput leaders like Bhanwar Jitendra Singh.

His presence in Congress is likely to make the party stronger, especially in the western part of Rajasthan and more so in Barmer and Jaisalmer belt, where BJP presently has 8 MLAs out of 9 assembly constituencies.

From Where Will Manvendra Contest?

The big question now is: will Manvendra fight elections from the assembly or the Lok Sabha? None of the Congress leaders is ready to talk or comment about it thus far. But as far as political understanding goes, his wife Chitra Singh is likely to fight the assembly polls from Sheo in Barmer district which is his husband's present constituency, while Manvendra may contest Lok Sabha polls.

This is highly probable, as Harish Chaudhary, the Congress candidate in 2014 Lok Sabha polls from Barmer-Jaisalmer constituency (who lost badly) may contest assembly polls from any one of the 9 constituencies in Barmer and Jaisalmer area. And thus, the Congress will have no other option but to go with Manvendra Singh.

(The writer is a Jaipur-based senior journalist and political analyst. He can be reached@anilsharma45. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same)

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