Party sees Guna and Chhindwara as the biggest obstacles to its ‘Mission-29’

When he spoke last week in Shivpuri, an Assembly segment held by the BJP’s Yashodhara Raje Scindia in the Guna Lok Sabha constituency in Madhya Pradesh, Narendra Modi said, “Vote for my candidate and I will be your representative.”

The BJP prime ministerial candidate, who is contesting from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh and Vadodara in Gujarat, did not mean he would also represent Guna but was only identifying himself closely with the constituency.

Mr. Modi recounted the benevolence of Ms. Yashodhara Raje’s mother Vijaya Raje Scindia, a founding member of the BJP, to the party. He also went on a tirade against Union Power Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia, who is Vijaya Raje’s grandson and scion of the Gwalior royal household.

Mr. Scindia is once again in the fray and his challenger is Jaibhan Pawaiya, former president of Bajrang Dal.

The Congress and the BJP each hold half of the eight Assembly segments. The BJP’s strategist and Rajya Sabha MP, Anil Dave, revealed at a press meet recently that his party’s focus in Madhya Pradesh was on Guna and Chhindwara, held by another Union Minister Kamal Nath. His party has identified these two seats as the biggest obstacles to its ‘Mission-29’ — a clean sweep of the Lok Sabha seats in Madhya Pradesh.

An MLA from Mr. Scindia’s hometown, Mr. Pawaiya lost by a mere 3.68 per cent margin to the former’s father, the late Madhavrao Scindia in 1998 in Gwalior. Guna has been held by a Scindia for most of its history after Independence. Before Mr. Jyotiraditya Scindia, it was his father and before him it was his grandmother.

Mr. Pawaiya began his campaign, carrying soil from Rani Laxmibai’s memorial in Gwalior to Tatya Tope’s memorial in Shivpuri. Both are martyrs of the 1857 rebellion and the erstwhile Maharaja of Gwalior Jayajirao Scindia fought against them then. “My fight is against feudalism. I took the soil as a blessing of the martyrs to free people from the clutches of Scindia,” Mr. Pawaiya told The Hindu.

This act prompted Ms. Yashodhara Raje to say, during a rally with Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, that it would be fitting on the part of BJP leaders to gather earth from her mother’s memorial, as she was the tallest leader who nurtured the party when no one else thought they had a chance.In the trading town of Guna, whose MLA and municipal president are both from the BJP, pani puri vendor Golu Shakya could not name the BJP candidate despite the presence of several banners and campaign vehicles in the city. “One Modiji is contesting,” he replied pointing to a poster. “Scindiaji has brought many new government buildings here where we get work sometimes. Modiji will also do good work in Delhi. I will vote for whoever my family decides,” he added.

Bus driver Karan Sikarwar appreciated Mr. Pawaiya’s courage to contest. “There is a Modi wave and many want him to win. But will he be there to solve our problems later?” he asks. At Khushalpur village The Hindu met Mr. Scindia campaigning. He reminded the people of the power sub-stations in every village. “Do not let some unknown person obstruct your progress,” he told the crowd.

Mr. Scindia avoids attacking Mr. Pawaiya, and chants at every meeting the development mantra of central institutions, power lines and roads laid during his tenure.