BHOPAL: The final day of Congress national president Rahul Gandhi's two-day tour to Vindhya region of Madhya Pradesh was marked by a significant political development, the ghar vapasi (return) of ex-minister Pushpraj Singh into the party after 15 years.
Singh, who belongs to the royal family of Rewa province, joined the opposition party in the presence of Rahul Gandhi, MPCC chief Kamal Nath, state campaign committee chief Jyotiraditya Scindia and the Leader of Opposition in the MP Assembly Ajay Singh in Rewa town on Friday.
Ajay Singh was the prime force behind the ex-minister 's return to the party. The development was significant as Pushpraj Singh, who was not attached to any political party since 2009, is the father of Divyaraj Singh, the sitting BJP MLA from Sirmour Assembly seat of Rewa district.
Importantly, Pushpraj Singh's return to Congress is being seen as masterstroke by Ajay Singh, as speculations were rife in political circles that BJP was planning to field him against the LoP in Churhat Assembly seat of Sidhi district, a seat which has been a Congress citadel.
While Ajay Singh is the four-time sitting Congress MLA from Churhat, his ex-CM and former union minister father Arjun Singh too had represented the same seat of Sidhi district in the Vidhan Sabha four times between 1977 and 1990.
Pushpraj Singh, who was the state's Education minister in the erstwhile Digvijaya Singh government, acknowledged that Ajay Singh had played a seminal role in his return to the Congress fold.
Pushpraj Singh, who was the Congress MLA from Rewa Assembly seat between 1989 and 2003 was the education minister in erstwhile Digvijaya Singh government in MP, but lost the Vidhan Sabha polls from the same seat in 2003. He joined the BJP in 2004, but quit it to join the Samajwadi Party in 2009, after the ruling party denied him ticket to contest Rewa Lok Sabha seat. He subsequently contested the 2009 LS polls on SP ticket, but lost to BSP's Deoraj Singh Patel, despite securing over one lakh votes.
According to sources close to him, though Singh was no longer officially in the BJP, but with his son being the ruling party MLA from Sirmour seat, the royal had backed the party and campaigned for its candidates in the 2016 Maihar Assembly by-election and the Shahdol parliamentary by-poll the same year.
Sources added that senior BJP leaders, including union minister Narendra Singh Tomar and CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan had met him over the last few months and offered him something big, but the offer didn't actualize till date.
While Pushpraj Singh or any senior Congress leaders didn't make it clear whether he would contest the coming assembly polls on Congress ticket or not, informed sources confided to The New Indian Express that he could either be a Congress candidate from any of the eight assembly segments of Rewa district or else could contest the 2019 polls from Rewa parliamentary seat, represented three times in the past by his father Maharaja Martand Singh.
The development has not only upset the BJP's calculations of fielding him against the LoP from Churhat assembly seat of Sidhi district, but has given to the Congress a powerful Kshatriya politician in the region, where caste is an important political factor.
This development is the second major setback to ruling BJP in Vindhya region's Rewa district, after the Rewa district panchayat president and ex-BJP MLA quitting the ruling party to join the Congress a few months back.