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|January 29, 1998|
Parties square up for the battle of Gwalior
It's the fight of his life for Bajrang Dal president Jaibhan Singh Pavaiya. But he's likely to lose, for up against him is the might of Congress general secretary and scion of the Gwalior royal family Madhavrao Scindia. Besides, there is Bahujan Samaj Party candidate Phool Singh Baraiya who emerged the runner-up in the last election from the Gwalior constituency.
Scindia has represented Gwalior since he defeated Bharatiya Janata Party veteran Atal Bihari Vajpayee in the 1984 general election. The Congress heavyweight is testing his electoral fortunes for the fifth time from this constituency.
Pavaiya, backed by the BJP, jumped into active politics after quitting a government job. He shot to national fame during the Ayodhya imbroglio. And using vitriolic speeches as stepping stones he rose from Vishwa Hindu Parishad member to Bajrang Dal president
While another member of a royal family and a high-profile champion of the Hindutva cause is also contesting the prestigious seat, the Bahujan Samaj Party is also eyeing the seat.
The BSP choice, Baraiya, had secured more than 113,000 votes in Gwalior during the last Lok Sabha election. The BJP was not in the fray then. That good showing has encouraged the BSP a good deal.
Even in 1996, the constituency had drawn much attention since Scindia -- revolting against Congress president Narasimha Rao for denying him a seat on the grounds that he was implicated in the Jain hawala case -- had set up the Madhya Pradesh Vikas Congress. He won by a margin of 223,000 votes.
The BJP messed up there, not putting up a candidate against Scindia, claiming it was all part of a strategy to defeat the Congress. But some time later, when Sitaram Kesri became party president, a triumphant Scindia returned to the Congress fold.
As the BSP is likely to repeat its candidate this election, an interesting contest is foreseen for the Gwalior seat.
Scindia was elected MP for the first time in 1971 from the neighbouring Guna constituency as a candidate of what was then the Jan Sangh. During the 1977 Janata Party wave, he retained his seat as an Independent. Later, he joined the Congress and won from the same constituency in 1980.
In the 1984 Lok Sabha election held after the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi, the Congress named him as candidate against Vajpayee from Gwalior constituency. Vajpayee lost by a margin of more than 175,000 votes.
Vajpayee had won the same seat in 1971, defeating Gautam Sharma of the Congress by a margin of 70,000 votes.
By and large, the family of the erstwhile rulers of Gwalior has its influence on the constituency, a situation made more piquant by the fact that while Madhavrao belongs to the Congress, Vijayraje, his mother, now belongs to the BJP.
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