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Congress fields ex-BJP MLA Manvendra Singh against Raje to ‘avenge insult to father’

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Manvendra Singh, the son of former external affairs minister Jaswant Singh, had quit the BJP to join the Congress in September.

New Delhi: Manvendra Singh, former external affairs minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) veteran Jaswant Singh’s son, will contest the 7 December Rajasthan assembly election against chief minister Vasundhara Raje from Jhalrapatan, the constituency she has won thrice since 2003.

Singh had quit the BJP to join the Congress in September, accusing the former of insulting his father.

Raje hasn’t lost an election since 1985, when she became an MLA from Dholpur for the first time.

She won five consecutive Lok Sabha elections from 1989 before contesting the assembly election in 2003 to become the chief minister of Rajasthan. The Congress had fielded Meenakshi Chandrawat, a Rajput leader, against her in 2013, but the chief minister won with a 63 per cent vote share, more than double that of the opposition candidate.

In this election though, Raje is staring at many odds as the Rajput community, which constitutes 10 per cent of the population in the assembly seat, has been upset with her.

Also read: As leaders quit BJP in Rajasthan party brass worries about poor optics, impact on LS polls

She is also reported to be facing strong anti-incumbency.

By fielding the high-profile Manvendra Singh against her, the Congress hopes to pin the chief minister down in her own pocket borough, political observers said.

‘Kamal Ka Phool, Hamari Bhool’

Manvendra, 54, was a member of the Rajasthan assembly when he quit the BJP in September. Announcing his resignation at a public rally, he said, “Kamal Ka Phool, Hamari Bhool (Electing the lotus our mistake).”

Manvendra and Jaswant had reportedly been upset with the party since 2014, when the latter was denied a Lok Sabha election ticket from his home base, Barmer.

Jaswant subsequently contested as an independent, but lost to the BJP’s Colonel Sonaram.

According to sources, Singh had requested the Congress brass for a nomination from Jhalrapatan because he wanted “to avenge the ill treatment of his father and himself at the hands of Raje”.

Also read: Rajasthan polls: How Vasundhara Raje managed to have the final say in ticket allotment

The Congress’ move caught the BJP off-guard, with many pointing out that the latter will have to raise its game to counter this challenge.

“This can be seen as an aggressive move by the Congress… It is not leaving any stone unturned in giving a tough fight to Raje,” said a senior Congress leader.

“The move will also ensure that the chief minister will have to focus more on her constituency and will surely affect the overall campaign,” the leader added.

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