Former Rajasthan BJP legislator Manvendra Singh joined the Congress on Wednesday after a bitter parting of ways with the party co-founded by his father Jaswant Singh.
Besides Manvendra, former BJP MLA from Maharashtra Ashish Deshmukh also returned to the Congress claiming that he was disillusioned by the policies of the Modi government, particularly on defence purchases such as the Rafale fighter jet deal.
Manvendra and Ashish joined the Congress a day after the BJP had poached two of its MLAs in the delicately poised Goa Assembly.
Hitting out at the Modi government, Manvendra sought to link the illness of Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar with the Rafale fighter aircraft deal. Parrikar was the Defence Minister when Prime Minister Narendra Modi finalised the fighter jet deal with France in 2015.
“The root of Manohar Parrikar's illness is in the Rafale file,” Manvendra said without elaborating.
Earlier, Manvendra and Ashish held separate meetings with Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday morning where they were formally welcomed into the party.
Manvendra had announced his resignation from the BJP on September 22 at a 'Swabhiman Rally' in Barmer, a seat he represented in the Lok Sabha from 2004-09. The BJP had refused to field Singh's father Jaswant Singh, a senior minister in the Vajpayee government, in the Lok Sabha polls in 2014.
Manvendra had been upset with the BJP and had campaigned for Jaswant who unsuccessfully contested the elections as an independent.
Congress did not forget to flag this “insult” of the veteran leader and hit out at the BJP for giving a cold shoulder to Jaswant, the grand old party saw as “prime ministerial material”.
“I was witness to how Vasundhara Raje denied a ticket to Jaswant Singh ji, someone who had been the external affairs minister and was a potential prime ministerial candidate. It was done for purely selfish reasons,” AICC General Secretary Ashok Gehlot said.
Manvendra's induction is expected to boost Congress' chances in Barmer and Jaisalmer regions where his family has earned the goodwill of people across communities. Manvendra, who belongs to the Jasol royal principality, holds considerable influence over Rajputs in the region.
Ashish, the son of former Maharashtra Congress President Ranjit Deshmukh, quit the BJP last week. He had joined the BJP in 2014 and won the Katol Assembly seat in Nagpur.