Rajasthan polls: It’s Vasundhara Raje vs ex-BJP leader Jaswant Singh’s son Manvendra
Rajasthan will vote in a single phase on December 7 and votes will be counted on December 11.Updated: Nov 17, 2018, 17:33 IST
Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje will face former BJP leader Jaswant Singh’s son Manvendra, who switched to the Congress from the BJP last month, in Jhalrapatan. The state goes to polls on December 7.
“It is party’s decision to field me from Jhalrapatan. I am ready for challenge,” said Manvendra Singh soon after his name was released by the Congress this afternoon in its second list of 32 candidates. Singh is a sitting legislator from Sheo assembly seat in Barmer district.
The Congress announcement came just hours after Raje filed her nomination for the Jhalrapatan seat. She has been winning from the constituency since 2003.
CM Raje, however, dismissed the challenge saying, “it isn’t a battle of individuals. Jhalarapatan is my home and its people are family so this is not my battle but of Jhalarapatan and its residents.
The decision to field the ex-BJP leader is seen as an attempt to raise the stakes for the BJP in her pocket-borough. It would, the Congress believes, also endear the party to the Rajputs. The community, which makes up for seven per cent of the electorate in Rajasthan, has traditionally voted the BJP.
It was at a rally on September 22 that Manvendra Singh had announced his exit from the BJP. Manvendra had called the public meeting a Swabhiman rally to, as he had described, salvage Rajput pride. He had then called his decision to join the BJP “a big mistake”.
Rajputs were unhappy with the BJP, Manvendra told them, as it denied ticket to Jaswant Singh in 2014 general elections to contest from Barmer-Jaisalmer Lok Sabha seat. His father had then contested the seat as an independent, and lost.
His supporters in the region have said they haven’t forgotten the slight to their leader, who served as the country’s finance, defence and external affairs minister.
Manvendra Singh had won from the Sheo constituency in this region a year earlier.
The Manvendra Singh vs Vasundhara Raje battle could also provide the Congress leader an opportunity to settle some old scores.
Back in the run up to the 2014 elections, Chief minister Vasundhara Raje was seen to have played a role in the BJP sidelining Jaswant Singh that drove him to contest as an Independent candidate. Manvendra Singh has had strained relations with her ever since.
So it wasn’t much of a surprise that Raje skipped only Manvendra Singh’s constituency Sheo during her Gaurav Yatra in August this year.
But it is going to be a huge challenge for the Congress to galvanise the local party workers to work for Manvendra.
Jhalrapatan district Congress president Kailash Meena made no effort to hide his disappointment at the party’s choice of candidates.
“A local candidate would have been better,” he said. He, however, added that “the high command might have taken the decision after looking into all aspects and the seat has always been experimented.
The BJP won a record 163 seats in the 200-member assembly in the 2013 elections in Rajasthan.
Rajasthan will vote in a single phase on December 7 and votes will be counted on December 11.