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February 28, 1998

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The Rediff Election Interview/Jaibhan Singh Pawaiya

A flamboyant Jaibhan Singh Pawaiya is the Bharatiya Janata Party candidate taking on the might of Madhavrao Scindia in Gwalior. In his first-ever election, Pawaiya, a former president of the Bajrang Dal, apparently has no qualms about contesting against a candidate, who has never lost a single general election in his life.

Just before setting out of his temporary home in Gwalior for his election campaign, Pawaiya spoke toArchana Masih at his dining table -- about his political past, his opponentís track record and why he thinks he will triumph over Madhavrao Scindia.

This is your first attempt for a seat in the Lok Sabha. How do you rate your chances against Madhavrao Scindia?

My assessment is that Madhavrao Scindia is fighting for the number three slot. It is clear at least in rural areas he will come out in the third slot. He may have the second spot in towns and cities, but he is still far behind me.

On what basis are you saying that Madhavrao will be placed behind you in this election?

This is because the issues that I have been highlighting have had an effect on the people. Unlike Madhavrao, I am not trying to win this election on national issues. Yes, national issues do influence the situation of the country, but the character of the Gwalior constituency is different. Here Madhavrao Scindia is trying to win an election on the emotional raja and praja issue. That his familyís relationship with the people has existed for over 300 years.

The development that he has done for Gwalior is just propaganda. He says he has brought progress to Gwalior. One of my issues is that for 14 years we have elected Madhavrao to Parliament, in these 14 years has he ever met the people of Gwalior even 14 times! Madhavrao's attitude towards the common people is one of slavery. He still thinks the janata (public) is his praja (subjects). He is inaccessible and has never fought for the rights of the people from a lower level Ė from the roads of Gwalior. As a result of which Gwalior feels as though it is a constituency without an MP.

He calls himself the messiah of development. In 14 years, Gwalior has seen destruction instead of progress. The JC Mills was shut down and 8,000 workers are dying of hunger. If you were an MP, you should be fighting on their behalf. So many workers, their daughters have committed suicide, but Madhavrao has not visited any oneís home. There are other sick units. Eighty hath kargha (handloom units) were shut down.

Madhavrao has received Rs 70 million for the MP constituency fund in the last seven years. He canít even mention ten things that he has done for the benefit of the common man in Gwalior like roads, water etc. He puts floodlights at the stadium and calls it development! He says he brought the Shatabdi Express to Gwalior, what I want to ask is donít Shatabdis run in other parts of the country?

You are saying he didnít do anything for the constituency, but there must be some qualities in Scindia, why else would he win every election he has contested?

You can attribute this to his political tactics through which he has cheated the people of Gwalior for 14 years. But times change and the people are now disillusioned by him. I have told the people that I want the winds of democracy to blow over this constituency. Gwalior has lost its links with democracy. I want to release politics from the confines of the mahal (palace) and bring it to the fields, roads and the common people.

I have told people that if Madhavrao wants to remain in politics he should come out and roam the fields, roads, in the dust. And this election has compelled his son to come out on the roads in scooter rallies. Otherwise, Madhavrao never came out on to the roads to campaign.

Would you say that for the first time the BJP has fielded a serious candidate against Scindia? It had remained a mere formality up till now?

Why would the party do that? The party contests an election because it wants to win a seat. Last time when the BJP did not field any candidate against Madhavrao, he had promised us that he would join our party after the election. He had assured our party high command that like us his fight was also against the Congress, so leave that seat for me and I will join you. Madhavrao make many such false promises.

Last time his issue was the tussle between Delhi and Gwalior. He said that if he won, he would hoist the flag of Gwalior over Delhi. But what the people of Gwalior saw over their television screen was completely different. They saw that one the son of Gwalior Ė Atal Bihari Vajpayee tried to raise the flag of Gwalior as prime minister, Madhavrao tried to pull it down. This is betrayal. This has hurt our people. People know that he has no principle or ideology. His only ideology is power. He was first with the Jan Sangh, then an independent, then the Congress and the Madhya Pradesh Vikas Congress.

Do you find yourself under greater pressure on being pitted against someone of the national stature of Madhavrao Scindia? Do you think the party has greater expectations from you?

His stature has been given to him because of you people in the media. He manages the media in Delhi and Bombay. People see his face on television and in newspapers. Journalists call him the prime ministerial candidate. Forget about the national level, Madhavrao Scindia doesnít have any political stature in Madhya Pradesh apart from Gwalior. If Atalji hadnít lost, Madhavrao wouldnít have reached so far.

I may not be a well known by the media, but I have struggled for 20 to 22 years. It started with Jayaprakash Narayanís movement. Since 1973, I have been with the ABVP, then VHP. I was an engineer and had the same tussle with Motilal Vora as Khairnar had in Maharashtra. I have been to prison over 12 times. I have a small three roomed house in a nondescript area. This house is a temporary settlement till the election. So people know that on one side is Madhavrao who has compromised consistently for power, while on the other hand I have sacrificed relentlessly for my country and my religion.

I am also a farmerís son, who meets people on the roads, at least three to four times each year. In 1989, they were going to make me stand against him. That time I was the chief of Ramshila, who had just resigned. At that time in MP nearly 20,000 people used to attend my sabhas. My cassettes were banned in 1987 Ė Sadhavi Rithambara hadnít even made an appearance that time. A minimum of 10,000 cassettes used to be sold in every zilla.

I may be unknown to you, but the people of Gwalior know me. In these 20 years, I have not fought for the kursi, but for Bharat Mata. I have more youth with me than Madhavrao. Eighty per cent of the youth are with me, while 20 per cent criminals are with him. This is the condition of Gwalior.

But all these charges you are levelling against him, wonít they also apply to your party vice-president and his mother, the Rajmata?

No, not at all. The Rajmata is a sadhavi, while he is a samant. The Rajmata is much more simpler than the common people.

RELATED FEATURES:
For the Scindias, it certainly pays to be royal
'Those who challenge Mrs Gandhi, they should first make it clear whether they are democrats or not'
'Is election ne Madhavrao ko mahal se sadak par utar diya hai'

The Rediff Election Interviews

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