A revengeful poll battle

Jaipur: The Congress paradropped, on Saturday, the son of ailing former Union minister Jaswant Singh’s son Manvendra Singh to contest against the Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje from Jhalrapatan. Manvendra Singh is a sitting BJP MLA from the border district of Barmer. He quit the BJP to join Congress and at the instance of the Congress President Rahul Gandhi, he agreed to contest the Jhalrapatan where he is a rank outsider.

Manvendra, 54, is a “paradropper” in the Territorial army and holds the position of a Colonel along with cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni. The supporters of Vasundhara Raje describes the journalist turned politician Manvendra now as a true “paradropper.”

Manvendra Singh was the BJP MP from Barmer once and after losing the election to the Congress candidate, Col Sona Ram Choudhry, he opted to become a BJP MLA in 2013.But in 2014, in a dramatic turn of political events, Jaswant Singh, who served the Atal Bihari Vajpayee cabinet, was not granted the party ticket from Barmer Lok Sabha seat.

It was a calculated move by then BJP president Rajnath Singh, Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and Vasundhara Raje to keep Jaswant Singh out. This move by the senior party functionaries was to ensure the smooth crowning of Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister as Jaswant Singh was considered very close to Atal Bihari Vajpayee and could have proved a thorn in the flesh of Narendra Modi’s way to becoming the Prime Minister.

However, after denying the ticket to Jaswant Singh, the BJP defected a Jat and the sitting Congress MP from Barmer, Col Choudhry into BJP and Jaswant Singh lost to Col Choudhry as an Independent. Soon after Jaswant Singh became ill and is bedridden since then.

Manvendra comes from the arid region of western Rajasthan in the thick of Thar desert and he would now be contesting from Jhalrapatan which is a part of the Jhalawar district, the country’s largest opium growing area.Vasundhara Raje was elected to the Lok Sabha five times from Jhalawar and she was elected to the Vidhan Sabha from Jhalrapatan thrice since 2003. The Jhalawar Lok Sabha seat is represented by her son Dushyant Singh for the second consecutive time.

The Jhalawar district is in the Hadauti region and was once ruled by the Jhala Rajputs. Manvendra Singh is a Rajput and belongs to the Bhati clan of Marwar region under the Jodhpur region. He would not be getting much support of the Rajputs here who are barely 17,000, but can hope to get the support of the 35,000 Muslims.

Political observers feel that Manvendra Singh was sent to Jhalrapatan to take revenge for his father, who was so unceremoniously denied the party ticket. But Manvendra Singh, it is learnt had agreed to contest the Jhalrapatan Vidhan Sabha seat only on the condition that the Congress will nominate him from Barmer in the Lok Sabha election of 2019. The presence of Manvendra Singh in Jhalrapatan will certainly make it tough for Vasundhara Raje as the caste equations are likely to change.

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