This Article is From Oct 17, 2018

Manvendra Singh Joins Congress, Party Eyes Rajput Votes

With Mr. Singh joining its fold, the Congress hopes to deal more than a psychological blow to the BJP ahead of the Rajasthan assembly elections scheduled on December 7.

Manvendra Singh joined the Congress ahead of the elections in Rajasthan.

New Delhi:

Manvendra Singh, the son of BJP stalwart Jaswant Singh and a lawmaker in Rajasthan, joined the Congress today and soon after, called it a "difficult decision" that he had thought over for a long time.

"I asked my family - and father too, though there was no response," the 54-year-old told NDTV. His father Jaswant Singh, 80, has been in coma since 2014, when he suffered a fall.

Manvendra Singh quit the BJP on September 22, describing his disenchantment with the party at a public rally with the phrase: "Kamal Ka Phool, Hamaari Bhool" (lotus (BJP) was my mistake).

He said after the death of former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, his father's contemporary in the party, "there is an end of an idea and culture I was born into."

Jaswant Singh's rift with the BJP widened when the party refused to field him in 2014 from Barmer in Rajasthan, his home base. Jaswant Singh, one of the founder members of the BJP, contested as an independent and lost to the BJP candidate.

The slight did not go down well with the Rajputs, who form about seven per cent of Rajasthan's voters and have traditionally voted BJP.

The Congress hopes to encash on the disillusionment as it welcomes Manvendra Singh in the run-up to the December 7 assembly election. Rajputs impact about 50 of the state's 200 seats and hold 26 of them.

The shift in Rajput votes cost the BJP in by-elections in February, in which the ruling party lost two parliamentary and one assembly seats.

"I may be born Rajput but I belong to all," said Manvendra Singh.

The BJP tried to placate the Rajputs by forwarding the name of central minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat to take over the reins of the party ahead of the assembly elections, but this was reportedly stalled by Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje , who felt it would upset other communities, especially the Jats.

"No one knows the Chief Minister better and I will not attack her because it is not my culture," Manvendra Singh told NDTV, adding this parting shot: "But her defeat is preordained."