Manvendra Singh’s exit shifts prospects in Barmer from BJP to Congress
It creates a vacuum in party’s prospects; focus is back on Rajput voters and their ‘anger’
The exit of Sheo legislator Manvendra Singh from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) raises questions about the party’s political battle with the Congress not just in Barmer but the entire Marwar region, where the BJP had bagged 27 of the 30 seats in the 2013 assembly election. On December 7, though, the saffron party would hope that the “impact” of Manvendra’s departure doesn’t rub off too badly on the state’s 7% Rajput voters, whom the Congress has pulled just a lit bit closer towards itself by inducting the son of former Union minister and expelled senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh.
But it isn’t merely the shifting of votes that would worry the BJP. Manvendra’s exit has created a vacuum in the party’s prospects in Barmer, where it had won seven of the eight assembly seats in 2013. The onus to steer the BJP’S ship falls largely now on its Barmer MP Colonel Sonaram Choudhary, a Jat, whose shift from the Congress just before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections had set the tone for anger among the Rajput community in the first place — Choudhary was fielded in place of Jaswant Singh, who later decided to contest as an Independent candidate, albeit lost the election by a margin of more than 87,000 votes.
And yet the BJP’S troubles do not end at the Rajput anger. While Sonaram’s presence does help the BJP tackle the Jat voters to some extent, the Congress has not one but two prominent faces from the community to counterbalance any sway in its support base — Hemaram Choudhary, the former revenue minister, and Harish Choudhary, the former MP and Congress national secretary. Both have good hold over the Jat community on all the seats. Jats comprise around four lakhs voters in Barmer and Jaisalmer.
While the BJP does not have any Muslim face, Manvendra fills that void for the Congress with his good hold over the minority community. Apart from this, he will strengthens Congress’s base among other communities associated with Rajputs such as Charans, Prajapat, Rajpurohits and Rawna Rajput among others.
The Manvendra factor may well extend into the Lok Sabha elections, scheduled next year, and the assembly elections in December will determine to a great extend which way the wind would blow. Manvendra, who Congrerss leaders say will be active during the ticket distribution process for the assembly elections, has expressed his wish to contest the parliamentary elections, and may come in handy for the grand old party, which has mostly banked on Jats and Jain so far, consolidate the votes of nearly 2.5 lakhs Rajputs in Barmer and Jaisalmer.
In Barmer and Jaisalmer, the BJP never banked on any Muslim candidate, while the Congress always banked on them on two seats. However, after delimitation, the seat is down to one, Chohtan, though it is now reserved for Scheduled Castes.
Dilip Paliwal, BJP district president in Barmer, said that Manvendra’s exit would not impact the party as such. He said that the party is the biggest reason for any leader’s identity. Paliwal said that every leader starts as a normal activist and becomes a big leader when the party gives him or her a platform.
Questioning Manvendra’s status, he said that his biggest identity is that he is the son of Jaswant Singh. He had lost two of the three elections he has contested, said Paliwal. He also said that the BJP has several Rajput leaders who have been associated with the party since the Jana Sangh era.
Yagyadutt Joshi, Congress district vice-president in Barmer, said party will definitely benefit from Manvendra’s presence as he is representing Rajput community in Marwar region and will impact favourably on all the seats. Joshi said that the BJP believes in “communal politics”, due to which it has always avoided Muslims while the Congress has reprseneted all communities.
Shivprakash Soni, a political analyst has totally different opinion. Soni said that in 2014 general election when BJP got the thumping majority with Modi wave, even at that time election at Barmer parliamentary seat was based on caste politics. He said that when BJP refused ticket to its veteran Jaswant Singh and fielded Congress turncoat Sonaram Choudhary, it led to caste polarization.
He said that Jaswant Singh was the big face in comparison of Sonaram Choudhary despite this Choudhary could able to win only because of his caste base. According to Soni, in current scenario even after Manvendra Singh exit from BJP, results will be fully depends on the candidates and their caste base.