On the evening of 21 November, a cavalcade of open jeeps and SUVs swooped down the congested lanes of Gwalior’s Falka Bazaar. Riding one of the jeeps was Congress leader and scion of the Scindia dynasty, Jyotiraditya Scindia. The 42-year-old was leading the party’s charge for the Madhya Pradesh Assembly election on 25 November.
Falka Bazaar falls in the Gwalior South constituency, seat of the incumbent BJP minister of state for home affairs, Narayan Singh Kushwaha. The Congress fielded Ramesh Agarwal, a member of the same merchant community that Kushwaha belongs to. With four days to go for the polls, the young Congress leader hit the road to garner support for Agarwal. The time had come to put to test the Scindia wave that was apparently engulfing the state.
Visibly fatigued, Jyotiraditya held a series of public meetings, covering most of the 52 districts in the state, including the prized seats of Morena, Sheopur and Shivpuri districts. The Congress believes that the charismatic sway of the Scindias over Gwalior and the entire Chambal region would prove to be the clincher for the party. Unofficially, Jyotiraditya is also being seen as the party’s chief ministerial candidate.
The MP from Guna, however, gives nothing away when this question is posed to him. “I am dutifully carrying out the responsibility given to me,” is all he says. Fondly called “Maharaj”, his charisma can be clear to any onlooker, as he drives around a 4 km loop, accepting garlands from people peeking out of their houses.
For his part, Congress candidate Agarwal is confident that the people will vote for change. “There is a huge frustration among the constituents of Gwalior South over the indifferent attitude of Kushwaha,” he says. “With Jyoriraditya, it will turn the tide in our favour. I am going to wrest the seat.”
I its infighting in the state and the party could gain considerably in the Chambal region. Currently, the Congress holds 13 of the region’s 34 seats in the Assembly; this time, they believe, that number is likely to go up to 20.
On the other hand, sitting MLA and minister Kushwaha feels this is not going to dent the BJP. “I am going to win the seat again and this time, the Congress will be defeated by a much higher margin,” he says.
The 25 November election saw an almost 70 percent voter turnout. In 2008, the Congress managed to win 71 seats in the 230-member Assembly. Even if the party has a windfall in Chambal, observers believe, it will be difficult for it to get to the figure of 116 seats.