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On campaign trail with 'Shrimant' Scindia

November 22, 2013 20:32 IST

As the campaigning winds down for the November 25 assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, JaivilasPalace, the Scindia residence, is abuzz with political activity.

And, the hum of activity is only echoed in the sound of helicopter blades as the Congress's campaign committee chief, Jyotiraditya Scindia, lifts off on a whirlwind election tour.

The buzz is also evident at Rani Mahal at 9 am in morning as Jyotiraditya's maternal grand aunt Maya Singh, who is the BJP MP contesting the Gwalior East Assembly seat, sets off with her cavalcade on the campaign trail.

Campaigning for the assembly elections in the state ends on Saturday.

While the BJP, which is seeking a third straight term in power in the state, is banking on Chief Minister Shivraj Chouhan's grassroots politics, Congress has put its faith in the young face and legacy represented by Jyotiraditya and his Scindia name.

Also, for Congress, the delayed "unity" which the party's various warring factions in the state have of late managed to find has come as a boost before the elections.

Mindful of the Scindia scion's impact in Gwalior, Chambal and Guna in particular, BJP has planned to corner the opposition on its home turf by fielding Jyotiraditya's aunt, Gwalior MP Yashodara Raje, from Shivpuri assembly seat along with Rajya Sabha MP Maya Singh from Gwalior East.

While Yashodhara is the sister of Jyotiraditya's father, the late Madhavrao Scindia, Maya is married to Dhyanendra Singh, who is related to the late Rajmata Vijayraje Scindia, who helped the erstwhile Jan Sangh get a foothold in the region.

Maya is referred to as 'Mami' (maternal aunt) even in the election cut-outs and posters in Gwalior city.

There are 34 assembly seats in the Gwalior-Chambal region and Congress had managed to retain a respectable presence here even when BJP won the 2008 assembly elections in the state.

With the elections this time looking like it would be a close contest, BJP has brought its star campaigners to canvass for votes.

While Bollywood's ‘Dream Girl’ Hema Malini attended a BJP meeting in Gwalior on Friday, the party's prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, addressed a rally in Gwalior on Thursday.

Not to be outdone, Congress has roped in cricketer-turned-politician Md Azharuddin to add zing to its poll campaign.

Jyotiraditya, or 'Shrimant' as he is called in these parts, is back in the city and held two pompous road shows amidst a shower of flowers and bursting of crackers last night.

At the rallies in Gwalior and Gwalior South, he reminded the people of the "dil ka rishta" between themselves and Scindia family and pointed at the development work carried out by his late father, who had in the past represented the seat as an MP, defeating BJP stalwart Atal Behari Vajpayee in 1984.

In Gwalior South, Congress's Ramesh Agrawal is pitted against three-time MLA Narayan Singh Kushwah of BJP, the minister of state for home affairs in the state government.

And what would come as music to Congress's ears is that the BSP is fielding a candidate, Vijay Singh Kushwah, from the same community as the BJP contestant.

In Gwalior, sitting Congress MLA Pradyuman Singh Tomar is locked in a keen contest with former MP and known Scindia family detractor Jaibhan Singh Pawaiya, a former national president of Bajrang Dal.

Pawaiya had given a tough fight to the late Madhavrao Scindia for one Lok Sabha poll contest before later eventually winning the seat when the former shifted to Guna.

In Gwalior East, Maya Singh is facing Congress's Munnalal Goyel, although BSP has attempted to make it a triangular contest through "caste-engineering" by fielding a Brahmin candidate.

There is some heartburn among the community over Congress's decision not to field any Brahmin candidate in Gwalior district, where they are a sizeable presence.       Congress has given the poll ticket old war horse Satyabrat Chaturvedi, who has now held a number of community meetings in the area to undo the damage.

Gwalior East seat was being represented by Vajpayee's nephew Anoop Mishra, who had won the seat by a wafer thin margin in 2008.

Mishra this time has shifted to Bhitarwar constituency. In Bhitarwar Mishra would be taking on Lakhan Singh, the sitting MLA.

In Gwalior (Rural), Madan Singh Kushwah is the sitting MLA from BSP. Congress has fielded former MP Ram Sevak Singh Gurjar from this seat with BJP putting up Bharat Singh Kushwah as its challenger.

Former BJP MLA Brajendra Tiwari, who had won the seat in 2003, is now contesting as a rebel. He could make the poll outcome interesting for this seat, where Brahmin votes are seen as being decisive.

The BSP, meanwhile, has fielded a Gurjar candidate sensing a split in the Brahmin vote. The Congress MLA is from Kirad community, to which CM Chouhan belongs.

In Dabara, Congress is represented by sitting MLA Imrati Devi, the lone woman legislator in Gwalior district. The votes that BSP fetches in the Gwalior-Chambal region could affect the results for many seats. The party is trying to make its presence felt in the area and, a couple of days back, BSP chief Mayawati addressed an impressive meeting on the Scindia turf.

BSP won three of the 34 seats in the Gwalior-Chambal region in the last elections with its tally in Madhya Pradesh being seven seats. The party's candidates came second at seven seats in the Gwalior-Chambal region.

Jyotiraditya, is however, confident that "people want a change".

"This is the people's election. People want a change. People want a progressive a government; not a government which only makes announcements but one that also implements them," he said.

Mindful of the deep-seated factionalism in the state Congress unit, Jyotiraditya, who was made the party's campaign committee chief with less than three months to go before the elections, seeks to dispel any speculation about him being the CM candidate.

"I have not been made CM candidate, directly or indirectly. I am not the CM candidate.

"I only believe in discharging the responsibility that is given to me. I am the campaign committee chief of the party and it is there that I have drawn my 'lakshman rekha'.

"My sole purpose is to ensure that there is a Congress government in place. As to who will be the head of the government in that eventuality will be decided by the Congress high command.

"I am not bothered about that issue. I have no such expectations (of being CM)," he said.

He was also dismissive of opinion polls predicting victory for BJP in Madhya Pradesh, pointing out that the same had not been able to predict the Congress win in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.

"I believe in peoples' pulse, not in any opinion polls. A Congress government will be formed because people want an end to corruption and misgovernment.

"They want a government, which delivers like UPA did at the Centre," he added.

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