Chandigarh, November 17
Quite naturally, the ongoing elections are also a test of popularity of incumbent chief ministers as well as their challengers in the five states. Political stakes are high for all of them, and for some the 2023 Assembly elections may well be their last hurrah in electoral politics.
However, apart from them, there is one more individual for whom these elections are equally, if not more, crucial. They may not exactly be a political make or break for him, but these elections are certainly a test of his prestige, ‘varchasva’ (supremacy) and hold over what has been his family bastion for ages.
The BJP may not have fielded him in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections like some of his colleagues in the Union cabinet but for Jyotiraditya Scindia the results from the Gwalior-Chambal ‘sambhag’ will play an important role in deciding his political stature and future in the saffron party, say observers.
Besides, they may also help settle conflict in the minds of some of his erstwhile colleagues in Congress on whether jumping the ship would be a good idea for them now, for example senior Congress leader Sachin Pilot in Rajasthan who is in the same boat as he was before joining the BJP.
Importance of Gwalior-Chambal ‘sambhag’
Interestingly, in the crucial Gwalior-Chambal region, it is a battle of prestige for not just Scindia but also for the Congress.
It has been a difficult election for contestants, according to ground reports.
While those from the BJP encountered anger against the party, those from the Congress faced lack of trust in them. “People were not sure that if they vote for the Congress the candidate will not switch sides after the results are declared like it happened last time. As a result, voters mostly remained silent,” explain observers.
The Gwalior-Chambal region played a major role in the return of the Congress to power in the state in the 2018 Assembly elections.
The region sends 34 legislators to the State’s 230-member Assembly.
In 2018, the Congress won as many as 26 seats and the BJP seven, down from 20 in 2013.
Scindia—a CM aspirant
Congress leaders believe this is one region that may yield good results for the party like last time because of what happened later.
In 2018, Scindia was one of the aspirants for the top post. However, the central Congress leadership, primarily the Gandhis, opted for Kamal Nath.
In March 2020, Scindia, along with his 22 loyalist Congress MLAs (at least 17 of whom hailed from the Gwalior-Chambal region) walked out, resulting in the fall of the Kamal Nath government.
Madhya Pradesh observers believe that chief ministership was a part of the understanding that led to the 2020 political coup engineered by Scindia against Kamal Nath. They now say that if he manages to prove his hold in his region, he may again become a part of the race even if he has not contested the elections.
His campaigning has been aggressive, targeting the policies of Rahul Gandhi, lately also of Priyanka Gandhi, they add.
Congress versus Scindia
Campaigning in the region, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi attacked Scindia, dubbing him a “betrayer” and a “backstabber”, claiming that he was only following the “family tradition”.
“I have worked with him in Uttar Pradesh in the past, where our party workers often used to tell me that he always liked to be addressed as Maharaj (king).
“He had carried on the tradition of his family well, many have betrayed, but he betrayed the people of Gwalior-Chambal by stabbing you all in the back by pulling down the government elected by you,” she was quoted as saying in one of the rallies in Gwalior-Chambal region.
Scindia’s grandmother Vijayaraje Scindia had brought down the Congress government in the state by engineering defections. Scindia, too, hit back calling Priyanka a “part-time leader” who should “look in the mirror”.