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Can Jyoti Scindia turn the tables?

Is it going to be a clash of personalities in the ensuing Vidhan Sabha elections in Madhya Pradesh? MP is a state that is being presently ruled by the saffron party, which is not discreet about its intentions to communalise the ways of life in the state by introducing surya mamaskar and Vandematram in the schools?  But to counter the BJP’s strategies, one of the most charming faces from the Congress camp is being fielded to thwart the efforts of the present CM, Shivraj Singh Chouhan to regain the baton of the state after the Assembly elections. And the handsome face belongs to none other than a titular (virtual) maharaja of the former princely state of Gwalior, one of the wealthiest ministers in the union government and the president of the state cricket association– Jyotiraditya Madhavrao Scindia.

The current CM, shivraj singh Chouhan, is the 17th CM of Madhya Pradesh, which came into existence in 1956 upon reorganisation of the states in the country. The ruling party, the BJP, is stated to be on a firm footing. It managed to win 143 seats against 71 by the Congress in the 230-member Assembly in the last elections in 2008. However, it lost its grip in the last Lok Sabha elections in 2009 and was able to secure just over 50 per cent seats, around 16 out of 29 in the state, against 12 by the Congress party.  Despite emerging as a strong runner-up in the 2009 elections in the state, the Congress could not make any major dent in the strongholds of the saffron party which also had to face brunt of Uma Bharti from time to time.  

However, Scindia can prove to be the best bet for the Congress as his mass appeal amongst the youth and the women, apart from his erstwhile princely state of Gwalior, can tilt the balance in favour of the young maharaja, in case the fight between the two major parties becomes fierce. He has been attracting good and responsive crowds in the rallies across the state. The image of the 42-year-old Scindia, presently doing exceptionally well in the ministry of power, is definitely going to help his party. It is being speculated that the party would announce him as the CM candidate, according to two senior leaders, Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh, though they also might be aspiring to hold the highest and most coveted executive post in the state.  

The self-determined moratorium of 10 years for not contesting an assembly election by Digvijaya Singh is coming to an end soon.  The Congress party has been following a consistent policy of not announcing its CM candidates prior to elections. And even though it announced the name of Amrinder Singh in Panjab, the party could not secure the majority in the Assembly. 

In case the Congress declares Scindia as the CM claimant and gives him a free hand in selecting the candidates, the things may turn in its favour. It may be recalled that his grandmother late Rajmata Gwalior, Vijayraje Scindia deserted the Congress party in 1967 after a tiff with the then big boss of the MP Congress Committee, DP Mishra.  She was motivated by the first PM, Nehru to join his party and help in consolidating the base of the party in the then princely state of Gwalior.  Nehru even persuaded her husband Maharaja Jiyajirao Scindia to allow Vijayraje to enter politics, Jiyajirao was reluctant initially though could not resist due to the repeated requests of the PM. She contested from Guna Lok Sabha seat as the Congress nominee to win comfortably and helping the party to capture more seats in the region. 

Vijayraje joined the then saffron party Jansangh and nurtured it and its later incarnation, the BJP ,till she stepped down on health grounds and quit electoral politics.  She was elected from the Kerala Assembly seat in 1967. She formed the Samyukat Vidhayak Dal of the non-Congress legislators to become its chairperson and to get installed the first ever non-Congress CM, Govind Narain Singh in 1967.  She declined to lead the coalition government and was satisfied to settle score with DP Mishra by dislodging him from the post of CM.  She was even jailed during the Emergency and later emerged as a strong propagator of the Ramjanambhoomi movement.  She won all the elections except once in 1980 against Indira Gandhi from Raebreli. 

Rajmata made his son, an influential Jansangh leader Madhavrao, father of Jyotraditya, to contest the Lok Sabha election in1971 from Guna as an independent candidate supported by the saffron party.  Madhavrao at the age of 26 became an MP though his association with Jansangh could not last long.  He joined Congress despite resistance from the family including his mother. Madhavrao never lost election and was elected nine times to Lok sabha. He also defeated Vajpayee from Gwalior in 1984. Once Madhavrao left Congress to form MP Vikas Congress, he could not cut ice in the state.  He later rejoined Congress. 

It is generally said that Jyotiraditya is more courteous than his late father Madhavrao. Jyotraditya in order to become an acceptable leader would have to imbibe the organisational skills, his grandmother was possessing.     

The author is a communication consultant
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