In a surprise move, Congress has fielded BJP leader Jaswant Singh’s son Manvendra against Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje in Jhalrapatan. Singh will file his nomination papers on Monday, November 19.
Manvendra who is the sitting MLA from Sheo constituency announced his exit from BJP on September 22 during the Swabhiman Rally in Pachpadra. In the rally, Manvendra had accepted that his family including his father who is in a coma from last four years along with the Rajput community were unhappy with the BJP. Claiming that the reach of Swabhiman rally is beyond Barmer, Singh said at the rally "Here in western Rajasthan a storm has begun and will reach eastwards soon. It will show its presence in Jaipur as well". Manvendra Singh had earlier skipped Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje's Gaurav Yatra in Barmer and Pachpadra.
Now the 54-year-old Rajasthan lawmaker, who belongs to the erstwhile royal family Jasol in Barmer has decided to conquer Jhalrapatan – the political fortress of Vasundhara Raje. Singh told DH, "Earlier I was not interested in contesting assembly polls but after Congress high command showed confidence in me and asked me to do so, there is no look back. My supporters are excited and so am I".
Reacting to Manvendra's candidature, Raje said, "The Congress could not find any candidate and he (Manvendra Singh) was to be given ticket from somewhere and therefore, he was sent here (Jhalrapatan)".
Raje filed her nominations for the elections at Jhalawar secretariat on Saturday. She was accompanied by his son Dushyant Singh who is the sitting MP from Jhalawar, her daughter Niharika and BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain. Raje has been contesting from the assembly constituency since 2003. Raje had retained her Jhalrapatan seat in the 2013 assembly election with a margin of 60,896 votes by securing 63.14 per cent of total 2,28,977 votes.
Rajasthan will go to polls on December 7. Votes will be counted on December 11.
The Singh family’s ties with the saffron party and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje became sour after Jaswant Singh was denied a party ticket by the BJP for the 2014 elections from his hometown of Barmer. Jaswant Singh contested as an independent as against the party’s official candidate and lost. In the same year, Manvendra was also suspended from the party’s primary membership for campaigning for his father.
However, differences between the two families date back to June 2007, when Jaswant Singh’s wife Sheetal Kanwar filed a case in Jodhpur court against the portrayal of Vasundhara Raje as goddess Annapurna. She alleged that a poster with these images had hurt her religious sentiments.
Later in the same year, an FIR was lodged against Jaswant Singh for alleging that Singh had performed the banned ritual of ‘riyan’, where guests are offered opium-laced milk during a get-together at his home to celebrate the birth of his grandson. Chief Minister Raje had ordered an enquiry. Singh's supporters feel that it was Raje who asked her people to file a case against him.