Jaipur/Barmer: Veteran BJP leader Jaswant Singh's son and MLA Manvendra Singh will join the Congress on Wednesday, ahead of the assembly polls in Rajasthan in December.
Singh (54), who won Barmer's Sheo constituency as the BJP candidate in 2013 assembly elections, had announced at a rally last month that he is leaving the Bharatiya Janata Party. “Kamal ka Phool Badi Bhool', he had said then, claiming that going with the BJP's election symbol, the lotus, was a “big mistake”.
Congress leaders claimed his move will help bring Rajput votes to the party-fold while the BJP said the MLA's “politically wrong decision” will have no impact on the ruling party.
“Manvendra Singh will join the Congress tomorrow in Delhi in the presence of party president Rahul Gandhi,” Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee president Sachin Pilot told news agency PTI on Tuesday.
“There is a long list of leaders quitting the BJP and the party should introspect why this is happening,” he said. ”We are welcoming Manvendra Singh and this will strengthen the party.”
He added the party will ensure his active participation in the upcoming assembly elections in the state.
Rajasthan's Parliamentary Affairs Minister Rajendra Rathore claimed Singh's decision is a political misstep and he should have thought before switching sides. “The Congress is helpless. Therefore it is adopting sidelined BJP leaders. It is his personal decision but this is a politically wrong decision. He is not going to get anything with this,” Rathore told reporters at Ranakpur in Pali.
As for the Rajput votes, Rathore said the community has traditionally voted for the BJP. “There will be no impact of this as the Rajput votes will remain with the BJP only,” he said.
Fateh Khan, the president of the Barmer unit of the Congress, said the Rajputs are not happy with the Vasundhara Raje government in Rajasthan. “The Congress party is going to gain when Manvendra joins Congress,” he said.
In western Rajasthan, the Rajput vote is often considered a deciding factor on many seats. The Congress is also hoping to get the support of communities like the Rajpurohits, Charans and Prajapats with Singh joining the party.
Manvendra Singh won Barmer's Sheo assembly constituency in 2013 with a margin of 31,425 votes. His father Jaswant Singh, who is in coma for the last four years, was denied ticket by the BJP from the Barmer-Jaisalmer constituency in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. He then contested elections as an independent and lost the seat to BJP's Sonaram, who had joined the party after switching from the Congress.
There was resentment among Jaswant Singh supporters over the denial of the BJP ticket for the veteran, and they blamed Vasundhara Raje for this. These supporters had then rallied around his son Manvendra Singh, calling it an issue of ‘swabhiman' or self-respect.