Shivraj Chouhan favoured even in Congress rally

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s Satta Parivartan rally in Gwalior on Thursday attracted a crowd that rivalled that of the BJP’s Karyakarta Mahakumbh in Bhopal on September 25, where Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was the star attraction. It was a morale booster for the Congress that nearly 2.5 lakh people could be gathered despite the Model Code of Conduct for elections, which was not in force during the BJP rally.

Most of the crowd came from the villages of the erstwhile Gwalior state, which was ruled by the ancestors of Union Minister of State for Power Jyotiraditya Scindia. It became a part of the Indian Union in 1948. The high turnout choked the roads leading to the Mela Grounds, as scores of SUVs and heavy vehicles stood in serpentine queues to ferry supporters.

Most of the audience this paper spoke to said they had come to see Mr. Scindia, referred to as ‘maharaja,’ and Mr. Gandhi. Girdhari Ram, an electrician, said it was natural for him to come here as supporters of “the king” had asked him to come. “This is his city. Everyone respects him.”

Gwalior is represented in the Lok Sabha by Mr. Scindia’s aunt Yashodara Raje of the BJP. The Congress holds only three of the eight Assembly segments and the municipal corporation is also ruled by the BJP.

Mr. Ram admitted that he was happy with the performance of the BJP, although he had not decided whom to vote for in the Assembly polls next month.

While a few supporters were offered a meal and most offered conveyance, none admitted being paid to attend — which is quite uncommon.

Kishor Singh from Mr. Scindia’s seat of Guna said a Congressman, hopeful of getting the ticket, had brought him to see “maharaja and Rahulji.” Asked whom he would vote for, Mr. Singh promptly replied that he would vote for the best candidate of his caste. “If the Congress wins and ‘maharaja’ becomes CM, then it will be good. But Shivrajji is very popular,” he added.

The Congress only holds one of the eight Assembly segments in Guna, which is held by K.P. Singh — a known Scindia baiter.

Support for Chief Minister Shivraj Chouhan runs high even in a Congress crowd although people don’t hesitate to criticise his ministers or local party bosses. Mr. Chouhan has often played the victim in rallies, projecting himself as a “son of a peasant” fighting “rajas [former CM Digivijaya Singh] and maharajas [Scindia].”

The women in the crowd though are far more reliable for the Congress. Kusum Devi, a supporter from Datia, said she felt sad that the leaders had to brave the evening sun while the crowd sat in the shade. Rahul and ‘maharaja’ are very fair, still they sit in the sun for us. I will vote for the Congress even if our caste candidates do not get the ticket,” she said.

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