Just months to go before the Rajasthan Assembly election, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Sunday suffered a jolt when its incumbent MLA Manvinder Singh, son of ailing former BJP stalwart Jaswant Singh, announced his departure from the party. Singh who is an MLA from Sheo in Barmer said that his decision was a matter of self-respect and cited harassment of his supporters at the behest of the state government. He also said that he will contest the Lok Sabha polls from Barmer and hinted that he is open to joining the Congress party.
According to Singh, the friction with the BJP began in 2014 when his father was denied a ticket to contest the Lok Sabha polls. He said that the decision to quit the BJP was not easy but ‘circumstances forced him’.
In an interview to The Indian Express, when asked if he will be joining the Congress, Singh replied that he is open to the idea. “But as I said earlier, it is not my decision. It is the people’s decision.”
Singh announced his decision to quit the BJP at the Swabhiman rally at Pachpadra in Barmer which was attended by his supporters. As soon as he announced the decision, the crowd raised slogans in support of the Congress.
He said that there is an anti-BJP sentiment prevailing in the state and hinted that the Congress party has emerged as an alternative to the people once again. “Yes, because that is the sentiment that has grown over years, and that is the reality on the ground in Rajasthan anyway. So they obviously, in that sense, were chanting their preference.”
“No, I don’t think so. People don’t want it. The reasons being: culture of governance in the state, corruption, and the national phenomenon of rising prices,” he replied when asked will the BJP return to the power.
On his prospects of contesting the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Singh said that he never wanted to be an MLA, but it was forced upon him. “My choice has always been to be in the Lok Sabha.”
Singh also heaped praise on Sachin Pilot who is the president of Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee. About his association with Pilot, Singh said, “I was in Parliament with Sachin (Pilot) so we have an old association. He has worked hard as state president, which cannot be denied.”
On Ashok Gehlot who was the Congress CM before the party’s defeat in 2013 Assembly, he said that even after party’s drubbing in the 2013 polls, Ashok Gehlot’s image remains steady. “Ashokji has a stature in Rajasthan politics which overrides boundaries and regions.”
Rajasthan will go to polls later this year along with two more BJP-ruled states of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. In Rajasthan, the BJP is faced with the challenge to ward off anti-incumbency and a growing resentment among BJP leaders over the leadership style of CM Vasundhara Raje.