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|November 23, 1998||
In times of war, we always come together: Mamaji
A Ganesh Nadar in Gwalior
The Bharatiya Janata Party's election office in Morar constituency, Gwalior district, is teeming with supporters from dawn. Everybody is in high spirits, some literally so. People are walking in and out. Nobody knows where the office in-charge is.
I ask for the candidate, Dnanendra Singh, only to receive blank looks. Then someone exclaims, "Oh! You want to meet Mamaji!"
Everyone calls Dnanendra Singh "Mamaji" (maternal uncle). He is actually Congress MP Madhavrao Scindia's mama and the brother of BJP MP Rajmata Vijayaraje Scindia of Gwalior.
Suddenly, a fair, tall man appears -- Mamaji. People rush to touch his feet. He willingly agrees to spare me 10 minutes in the midst of campaigning. So we sit in a corner surrounded by a curious crowd which keeps a respectful distance. Nobody interrupts.
Mamaji says he has been interested in politics since his student days. He was the secretary of his college union in Jiwaji University. I ask him whether the fact that he is Scindia's uncle helps him get votes. "Madhavrao is campaigning against me," he clarifies. "The fact that I am the Rajmata's brother helps."
Singh joined the Bharatiya Jan Sangh in 1972. He stayed when the party merged into the Janata Party and then evolved into the Bharatiya Janata Party. This is his sixth election.
Every national leader and all former chief ministers in the BJP's Madhya Pradesh unit have their own factions. Mamaji agrees, but insists that "in times of war we always come together".
Why couldn't the BJP project a prospective chief minister? Mamaji is evasive. "The national executive decided against it. We are seeking votes for the party, not an individual," he answers.
All candidates say they will win, but Mamaji is one of the few who can list reasons for his optimism. In the last BJP government, he was minister for public health. "In 1990 women in this place were getting drinking water 10 feet below the ground... As minister I improved the water supply. In my tenure water was reaching the 2nd floor of buildings. I also improved the sewage system. I did a lot for education and health care," he claims.
Mamaji expects 50 per cent of the electorate to cast its vote. And he is sure he will get 15 per cent more votes than his Congress rival. "The BSP [Bahujan Samaj Party] is negligible here," he says. And there are no BJP rebels in his constituency.
I thank him profusely and restrain myself while everyone else touches his feet. Then he gets into a jeep and rushes off to campaign. The faithful follow. The man has charm. Wonder why he reminds me of Anupam Kher.
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