Manvendra Singh, Rajasthan BJP MLA and son of BJP stalwart Jaswant Singh, on Wednesday joined the Congress, a move which could give a symbolic boost to the grand old party weeks ahead of Assembly elections. Senior Congress leaders said Manvendra’s entry would help attract Rajput votes to the party as they believe his father’s name still carries a lot of political capital in Rajasthan. Manvendra’s entry also fits into the narrative that the Congress has been trying to craft that the present leadership of the BJP is “autocratic” and has little respect for anyone else, including elders and the party’s founders. Manvendra met Congress president Rahul Gandhi and later told reporters that it has been a fight for self-respect for him.
Interestingly, Manvendra’s entry came weeks after Rahul publicly disapproved the trend of parachute candidates in the Congress and vowed to cut off such parachute entrants.
“The Congress workers are the backbone of the party… but before the elections, a parachute lands from the above. New candidates arrive. This time the Congress worker would decide who would be the party candidate. I am telling you, I will perform the task of cutting off parachutes. They would jump from above, I would cut them and they would crash land. If somebody wants to join the Congress, do come, work for five years, and then we would talk,” he had told workers at a public meeting in Rajasthan last month.
Sources in the Congress said Manvendra would most certainly contest the Assembly or Lok Sabha elections. “It has been a fight for swabhimaan (self-respect). The decision to quit the BJP was not my own but that of our entire ‘Swabhimaan Sena’,” Manvendra said, referring to his supporters who he claimed have been targeted by the BJP.
Along with him, BJP’s Katol MLA in Maharashtra Ashish Deshmukh also joined the Congress. He is the son of Ranjeet Deshmukh, a former president of the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee and former Maharashtra minister.
Welcoming Manvendra, AICC general secretary Ashok Gehlot said only two people — Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah — are ruling in the country and leaders in the BJP were feeling suffocated. He cited the way Jaswant Singh was targeted as part of a “conspiracy” and claimed there was a long line of people who want to quit the BJP and join the Congress.
Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee chief Sachin Pilot said “it is a lesson for the BJP and time for them to introspect”.
“The arrogance in the BJP under Vasundhara Raje has crossed all limits and people are looking at alternatives and that is why they are tying with the Congress,” Pilot said. “We believe this has strengthened the Congress party in Rajasthan,” he said, adding that this will help defeat the Raje-led government