Manvendra Singh has been in the news as the Congress party's candidate to take on Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje in the contest for the Jhalrapatan assembly seat. Son of former finance minister and BJP stalwart, Jaswant Singh, Manvendra has had a rocky relationship with his former party since 2014. Having won the election for the Sheo assembly constituency in 2013, Manvendra was suspended from BJP in 2014 when he joined his father's campaign against the BJP candidate for the Barmer parliamentary constituency in 2014. He quit BJP in September this year and joined the Congress party which asked him to contest from Jhalrapatan. Business Standard spoke to Singh during the course of his election campaign. Here are the edited excerpts.
Q: How different is campaigning for the Congress than it was for BJP?
MS: The sociology of the voter base is different. As a BJP person, I have campaigned only in Barmer. So it would be difficult to say how different would it be campaigning for the same party in Jhalarapatan. In Barmer people gather at one place and one has to get out of one’s car, meet them and carry on. Here, one has to walk along villages, its bylanes and streets. My campaign is particularly aimed at streets where Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes stay. I’m not campaigning differently because of the change in my party. It has more to do with a change in the region from where I am contesting. I can’t see the BJP campaigning much here so I can’t say how different my approach is to theirs. Campaigning against the CM Vasundhara Raje is the biggest change. Not too many people are politically privileged enough to contest against the CM. So it is a bigger challenge.
Q: How different are the BJP and Congress?
MS: I am very new to the Congress party. I am basically here for my affection and my friendship with Rahul Gandhi. I am yet to make out the difference because ever since I have joined, I have been sucked into this election mode. It was very unexpected and unplanned. I am still dealing with maelstrom of emotions that have swept me because of these sudden events over the last few months.
Q: What made you switch?
MS: There was a lot happening in the state which was bothering me. Starting from the 2014 Lok Sabha elections to the management of the BJP in Rajasthan to the management of the state itself – nothing seemed right to me. Incidents started happening in Rajasthan which have never happened before. From the killing of unarmed people to daylight lynching of people by mobs – it was a worrisome sight. I could not bear to be a partner in this anymore. It wasn’t an instant decision. It was a long drawn process of coming to this realisation. I spoke to various people before taking the decision to quit the BJP.
Q: Did you choose to contest from Jhalarapatan?
MS: I was asked if I would contest from Jhalarapatan. I said yes. It wasn’t something I had planned for or something that had even crossed my mind. It wasn’t voluntary. I offered the Congress my services. And I was given an offer I couldn’t refuse.
Q: How do you deal with the paradox that your party is expected to win but you face the toughest electoral contest in the state?
MS: I am not rosy eyed about my chances. I am putting in a lot of extra effort in this contest with the sole purpose of winning. I am not contesting just for the of putting up a fight.
Q: If the Congress were to come to power what would be your role in it?
MS: This hasn’t crossed my mind. The fact that I am contesting an assembly election is a shock to me. The place from where I am contesting is an ever bigger shock to me. Whenever that happens, it will be an evolutionary process.
Q: Is 2019 your Plan B?
MS: I won’t think about it till the assembly elections are over. Plan A was always 2019. But this has now come my way in between. Well, this is the nature of politics.