- Manvendra Singh pitted against Vasundhara Raje by Congress
- Mr Singh, son of Jaswant Singh, joined Congress last month
- He will face Ms Raje in Jhalawar, from where she won thrice since 2003
Manvendra Singh, former BJP leader and the son of BJP veteran Jaswant Singh, has been pitted against Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje by the Congress -- the party that he joined last month -- for the December 7 assembly polls. It will be interesting to see the contest between him and Ms Raje in Jhalrapatan, a town in Jhalawar district that has thrice voted for her since 2003.
The move is also seen as a larger message by the Congress that it isn't afraid of taking the chief minister head on in her home ground.
"I'm ready for the challenge," Mr Singh said and warned that people of Rajasthan will take revenge from the BJP for insulting Rajput leader Jaswant Singh.
Unfazed, Ms Raje said, "The Congress couldn't find anybody in Jhalwar and they didn't know where to place him, so they sent him here, but they forgot that it isn't a battle of individuals."
Manvendra Singh and his father -- who has been in coma for four years -- had been upset with the BJP since the party denied the veteran his wish to contest the 2014 national election from Barmer, his home base. Jaswant Singh contested as an independent and lost to the BJP candidate.
The 54-year-old Rajasthan lawmaker quit the BJP on September 22 with a parting shot, "Kamal Ka Phool, Hamaari Bhool" (lotus was my mistake). He had also lashed out at the BJP for its style of functioning at the centre and the state. "There is a problem with the culture of governance and there is rampant corruption," he told NDTV.
But he also felt emotional about leaving the BJP. "Leaving my family wasn't easy. When no one heard me within the family and a friend (Rahul Gandhi) heard me, it was then that I took this step," said Manvendra Singh, whose name was released by the Congress this afternoon in its second list of 32 candidates for the Rajasthan assembly elections.
The BJP won a record 163 seats in the 200-member assembly in the 2013 elections. Manvendra Singh won from the Sheo constituency in Barmer.
The Congress wants to cash in on his popularity among Rajputs, who form seven per cent of the electorate in Rajasthan and have traditionally voted the BJP.
Excited to be part of his new team for the Rajasthan assembly elections, Mr Singh is confident that Congress chief Rahul Gandhi will make a good leader. "In a democracy, a leader has to possess humanity. If one does not possess that, one cannot feel the pain of the poor...Rahul ji is a repository of humanity. I have seen him very closely. Very few leaders possess such deep humanity," he said.
Rajasthan will vote in a single phase on December 7 and votes will be counted on December 11.