In a big boost to the Congress ahead of Assembly elections in Rajasthan, Manvendra Singh, son of former Union Minister and one of the founders of the BJP, Jaswant Singh, joined the Congress on Wednesday.
Singh had a meeting with Congress President Rahul Gandhi in the morning and the announcement of his induction into the party was made at a press conference later by General Secretary Ashok Gehlot, a former Chief Minister of Rajasthan, and other leaders including Rajasthan Pradesh Congress chief Sachin Pilot.
An MLA from Sheo in Barmer, he quit the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in September, upset over the sidelining of his father in the party ever since the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in which he was not given a party ticket. Jaswant Singh, a Rajput leader, has faded away from public life after he went into a coma a few years ago.
At the press conference it was also announced that former Maharashtra BJP MLA Ashish Deshmukh, who represented Katol Assembly in the Vidarbha region, has joined the party. He had stepped down as an MLA earlier in the month over the Rafale jet deal.
Speaking to the media, Singh, a former Lok Sabha member, said he joined the Congress over the persistent targeting by the Vasundhra Raje-led BJP in Rajasthan. He said the problem began in 2014 when the BJP denied his father Jaswant Singh a party ticket in the Lok Sabha polls.
"We have been consistently targeted by Chief Minister Raje and the BJP. Joining the Congress was not a personal decision, rather a decision of the masses who want to teach the BJP government a lesson," Singh told the media.
Gehlot said: "A man (Jaswant Singh) who had been the country's Finance Minister, Defence Minister and External Affairs Minister, who was Prime Ministerial material, has been targeted systematically by the BJP in pursuance of a conspiracy.
"We all know how the BJP treats its veteran leaders. There are many in the BJP who are being targeted and are willing to join the Congress," said Gehlot.
Announcing Singh's induction into the Congress on the social media, Gandhi said it had bolstered the party's strength.
Deshmukh, the son of former Maharashtra Congress Committee President and former cabinet minister Ranjit Deshmukh, said he joined the Congress to further the fight against the Modi government over the Rafale deal.
"The Rafale deal is clear-cut case of criminal misconduct and misuse of office of the Prime Minister. It is undermining the PMO for crony capitalism," said Deshmukh.