BHOPAL: It was the violent backlash over the alleged dilution of SC/ST Atrocities Act by the government and resentment among upper castes over the amendment to Atrocities Act and the possibility of Jyotiraditya Scindia becoming the chief minister that helped the Congress sweep Gwalior-Chambal region of Madhya Pradesh in the 2018 Assembly polls. It won 24 out of 32 seats.
Four months on, Congress’ main challenge is to replicate the performance. The soaring heat and the fact that May 12 is one of the most auspicious days for marriage could test the candidates.
Four seats of the region — Gwalior, Guna, Bhind and Morena — will go to the polls on Sunday, along with four other seats in MP. Out of these four, three, including Gwalior, Bhind and Morena were won by the BJP in 2014, while Guna, the pocket-borough of the Scindia family, was won with ease by four-time sitting MP Jyotiraditya.
The Congress has an advantage as it won the Assembly polls, winning 75% seats in the region, leaving BJP just seven seats (BJP won 18 and Congress 12 in 2013) and one to the BSP.
In Guna, Jyotiraditya and wife Priyadarshini Raje have been travelling from one village to another campaigning in the eight Assembly segments in Shivpuri, Guna and Ashok Nagar districts.
Scindia, who has been winning Guna since 2002 (the seat has elected Scindia family members Vijaya Raje Scindia and father Madhavrao Scindia 14 times) is pitted against a former close aide and now a BJP candidate KP Yadav.
According to Guna-based journalist, Vikas Dixit, the contest in Guna seems more about Scindia’s winning margin. He had won by over 86,000 plus votes in 2014. “We’re working for a margin of around 2.5 lakh votes and we’re confident about attaining it. There is no Modi wave in Guna or anywhere else in Gwalior-Chambal region,” claimed Congress state spokesperson and Scindia’s close aide Pankaj Chaturvedi.
In adjoining Gwalior, it’s a different story. City mayor and BJP candidate Vivek Shejwalkar is locked in a tough battle with three-time Congress candidate Ashok Singh. The Singh-Shejwalkar contest assumes significance as in 1977 and 1980 the BJP candidate’s father Narayan Krishna Rao Shejwalkar had defeated the Congress candidate’s father Rajendra Singh from the same seat. In 2014, the seat was won by Union minister Narendra Singh Tomar, who was the then state BJP president.
Four years later, the saffron party suffered major reverses in the eight Assembly segments of the Lok Sabha seat, managing to win only one seat against the Congress’s seven. However, the BJP remains a divided house in Gwalior again, with senior leaders Maya Singh, Jaibhan Singh Pavaiya and Narayan Singh Kushwah, largely staying away from campaigning.
In Morena, Tomar (the sitting Gwalior MP) is facing Congress veteran and Scindia loyalist Ramniwas Rawat, who lost the recent Assembly polls from his pocket-borough of Vijaypur in Sheopur district. While Rawat has the support of SC/ST and Gurjars, besides Brahmin voters (who are disgruntled over sitting BJP MP and Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s nephew Anoop Mishra being denied ticket), Tomar has the support of Thakurs and other upper castes. He is also banking on the Modi factor among first-time voters.
Bhind-SC seat is witnessing a contest between BJP’s Sandhya Rai and BSP-turned-Congress candidate Devashish Jarariya. Jarariya, who joined the Congress before last year’s Assembly polls, is facing the wrath of upper caste and OBC voters, with some villages not allowing him to campaign. His pictures with CPI candidate from Begusarai (Bihar) Kanhaiya Kumar has alienated upper caste and OBC youths.