Manvendra Singh, son of Jaswant Singh, in Barmer is brewing a political storm of sort. The limelight was on Barmer during 2014 general election when Jaswant Singh defied the order of the party, he was a founding member of, and fought election as independent. Polarisation in Barmer politics had peaked in 2014 and there was also a reverse polarization in Jats, who came together blurring party lines, ideologies and family allegiance to defeat Jaswat Singh by around 80000 votes. Manvendra Singh, a BJP MLA in 2014 from Sheo constituency, was expelled from the BJP for anti party activities.
Always clad in short kurta and a dhoti, Manvendra Singh wears a pagri as his trademark style. If one closely examines the appearance of Maggu, as he is fondly called by his friends, it is rusty Rajasthani on the face but as sham and superficial as his politics. When he is among his friends, Maggu enjoys a hard black coffee and a Bidi. There is a clear style mismatch of this BJP leader with the common men of Barmer and also with his ardent followers.
Manvendra Singh in politics of Barmer is son of Jaswant Singh. He has been a Member of Parliament from Barmer seat in 2004 and MLA from Sheo in 2013. Jaswant Singh had never won any election from Barmer though he had been in politics since 1972. Jaswant Singh left the army against the wishes of his father Sardar Singh, a former excise commissioner while his cousin Hanut Singh went on to become one of the great general Indian Army has seen so far. From aspiring to be a dairy farmer and tilling his land near Jawai Dam to become India’s most astute diplomat, Jaswant Singh’s journey has been an inspiring tale of ‘Kismat’ and ‘Karma’.
Jaswant Singh married Sheetal Kanwar, daughter of Mohan Singh Bhati of Osian, against the wishes of his family in Jasol. Jaswant Singh fought his first election from Osian, an area his in-laws had influence on but lost on Ram Rajya Parishad ticket in 1972. As luck would have it, one of the four sisters of Sheetal Kanwar was married to Shambhaji Rao Angre popularly knows as Sardar Angre, a close aide of Gwalior’s dowager queen Vijaya Raje Scindia. From here, began the connection of Jaswant Singh with Vijaya Raje Scindia and through her to Atal Bihari Vajpaee. Jaswant Singh is today described by his son as ‘Hanuman of Vajpayee’.
Jaswant Singh as foreigner minister under Vajpayee was direct boss of Vasundhara Raje, who was junior minister. From here, began the crackling relation between Sheetal Kanwar, the boss’s wife and Vasundhara Raje, the future boss to be.
2014 was the watershed in Indian politics and more so for the politics of Barmer as the caste fault lines became clearer than ever before and rendered society divided. Jaswant Singh, is now not active in politics given his medical condition. But his son Manvendra Singh and his wife Chitra Singh are still trying to drum up emotions of people for a man on death bed to get a sagging political career going. Atmosphere of distrust in Barmer and Jaisalmer after 2014 has led to many incidents when dominating communities came at loggerheads. Tactics of Vasundhara Raje had also not helped to better the situation leading to a permanent standoff between communities, a happy situation for politicians on all sides.
It is an open secret today that Manvendra Singh is a willing rebel against Vasundhara Raje. He has avoided her Rajasthan Gaurav yatra and believed to be coming up with a major political announcement on September 22 at the Swabhiman rally. At most, he can join his old friend Sachin Pilot in Congress. But the big question is that even if Manvendra Singh joins congress, will he be a force to reckon with in Barmer?
Caste equation of seven assembly seats in Barmer district, Jaisalmer and Pokran assembly seats and over all equation of Barmer-Jaisalmer Lok Sabha seat hold the answer unambiguously.
Sheo, from where Manvendra himself is a MLA, is a Muslim-Rajput dominated seat. Barmer is dominated by Jats but a Jain of Congress party playing on anti jat sentiments is winning it for past many years. Baytoo is clearly a Jat dominated seat, Pachpadra is OBC and Gudha Malani is Kalbi-Jat and Chotan is Sindhi Muslim against other contest. Jaisalmer and Pokran assembly seat have Rajput-Muslim contest and its direct relations with various shrines across the border in Pakistan. In 2014, Jat and Kalbi had come together to gather 4.88 lakh voters in favor of Sonaram of BJP while Jaswant Singh valiantly gathered support of around 4 lakh people. Fact of the matter is that Jat is the dominating and most politically active caste in Barmer Lok Sabha constituency.
Challenge for Manvendra Singh is that whether he will be able to reach that crescendo of anti jat sentiments to win Barmer Lok Sabha for either BJP or Congress. Bigger challenge would be for the polticial parties, BJP or Congress, that who would bet on a politician riding on an anti-Jat sentiment.
But politics is game of cards where game changes with every hand. With Anti Vasundhara Raje sentiment peaking up in Barmer, Manvendra Singh, anyways, is not expected to win as a BJP MLA from anywhere. He would be least interested to become a MLA from Congress if he decides to be a turn coat. Moreover, he may also find himself at a loss if he decides to fight for Barmer Lok Sabha as Congress candidate in face of tsunami efforts BJP is going to put in winning each and every seat in Rajasthan. Situation remains the same for him, even if BJP decides to pitch him against the might of Jats in Barmer as muslims are not going to vote for Modi’s BJP anywhere even if they would have to defy a call from Peer Pagaro this time.
Joker or Ace, it is not the destiny but the Karma which decides what one would become.