The candidate here is the charismatic former Sports and Tourism Minister, and incumbent MP from Gwalior, Yashodhara Raje Scindia. She has represented Shivpuri in the Madhya Pradesh Vidhan Sabha from 1998 to 2007. As minister, she is credited with revamping sports facilities and developing Madhya Pradesh Tourism into a formidable brand. She is also remembered for convincing Shivraj Chouhan to issue a gazette notification in 2006 that she be addressed as ‘Shrimant’ (Her Highness).
Ms. Scindia faces Birendra Raghuvanshi from the Congress, a loyalist of her nephew and Union Minister of State for Power Jyotiraditya Scindia — who heads his party’s campaign committee for the assembly polls on November 25. In fact, the party organisations of both the main parties here are beholden to the Scindia family. Local columnist Pramod Bhargava says that people in the region usually favour a candidate of the family.
“The roads are bad and there have been no new jobs. The water from Madikheda Dam has still not reached the city which faces water crisis in summer. But people consider a royal candidate as stable, because they are not corrupt and their writ runs,” he says.
Jyotiraditya Scindia broke the tradition of not campaigning against a family member when he addressed a meeting here on November 13. But in his five-minute speech, he made no mention of his aunt. Raghuvanshi is a benefactor of several charities, is active in taking up municipal issues, and has several auto dealerships. Yet, the Congress flags here peter out beyond the city limits.
But times are changing. Earlier this year, during protests following the death of an abducted school boy, protestors vandalised the bust of Ms. Scindia’s grandfather Madhavrao Scindia. “Even thinking of such a thing was a sacrilege here. It is a sign of the times to come. People have begun to question the royalty,” says Jahid Khan, a known Hindi writer and columnist of Shivpuri.
The Hindu met Ms. Scindia at a school, where she met with party workers and loyalists. A waiter bearing the Twin Cobra and Sun crest of the Scindias serves water to the audience. “You may have a problem with people calling me Maharaj, but the people here don’t,” she says. Small industries and tourism is her promise to voters. When asked about her nephew, she says, “Mr. Scindia does not affect my campaign. We have a progressive CM who has the knowledge, skills and zeal to change the State.”
She manages the campaign with the help of her son Akshay Bhansali who asks people to call him ‘bhaiya’ or elder brother, instead of Maharaj. “My mother has been deeply involved in social issues and her politics is an extension of that. Our goal here is to put Shivpuri back on the fast track of development she had put it on when she was the MLA,” he told this paper.
A group of men whose clothes are torn wait eagerly to see their “Maharaj” along with a party leader.
“Shivpuri is her kingdom and she is our ruler. If she meets us we will ask her to tell the collector to give us compensation for crops submerged due to rains,” says one of them, Roshan Lal Shaakye.
Ms. Scindia tells a group of women that they must convince one woman every day to vote for the BJP. She then goes to inaugurate a campaign van. Ms. Scindia soon leaves for touring the villages, and the crowd thins out. “We lost 20 bighas with soya and tomato. We could not speak to her. The peon in the collector’s office asks for bribe when we go there for compensation. The “panja-chhaap” (Congress) people said they will get us compensation so we will vote for them,” says Babbar Singh Shaakye, a young member of Roshan’s group. The elders ask him to shut up before leaving in a BJP van.
Villagers flock to her jeep to pay their respects to her as she tours the villages near Karera. BJP men distribute calendars, sashes and badges. “Make Shrimant the Maharaj in Bhopal, and everyone will prosper,” the BJP cadres announce. Ms. Scindia blesses the old and young and drives off.
Keywords: Madhya Pradesh polls 2013