The Congress is all set to unveil Narendra Modi’s challenger for the Varanasi seat in Uttar Pradesh. Jyotiraditya Scindia, Union Minister of State for Power (Independent Charge), revealed this in an interview to The Hindu while campaigning in Guna, his parliamentary constituency in Madhya Pradesh. Mr. Scindia, however, stopped short of naming the Congress candidate.
Party stand, my stand
On whether the chosen one to take on the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate was a member of the Nehru-Gandhi family, Mr. Scindia said, “This is a decision of the Congress party and whatever decision the party has taken is a decision that all workers of the Congress party stand by and I as a worker stand by that decision.”
Following Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal’s decision to fight against Mr. Modi in Varanasi, speculation has been rife that former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh would be named the Congress candidate for the all-important seat.
The scion of the Gwalior royal family, venerated as Maharaj or Shrimant by the locals, said he expected the United Progressive Alliance to win the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. He, however, did not wish to speculate the UPA’s tally.
“I never predict. I go by gut feeling and what I hear from the grassroots. In UPA I, we (Congress) had 145 seats, in UPA II it was 206. I don’t know what the magic number will be this time, but I do feel that we’ll come back for UPA III.” He said the new government’s focus would be on reclaiming eight percent annual growth and expanding the party’s social agenda.
Mr. Scindia opined that Rahul Gandhi, the Congress vice-president, was doing a commendable job. “Rahulji is clear on his commitment and vision. His role as vice-president has been overarching on the Congress.”
Taking on the BJP, Mr. Scindia questioned how Mr. Modi’s could lead the country when his projection as the prime ministerial candidate created dissension within the BJP. “How can an individual who is unable to keep his party united, move this country forward.” He pointed out that Mr. Modi’s ascent led to conflicts over seats by former Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, former Union Ministers Murli Manohar Joshi and Jaswant Singh, and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Ministers Kailash Joshi and Uma Bharti.
Mr. Scindia compared the wave-like support for Mr. Modi to the National Democratic Alliance’s unsuccessful media blitz for the 2004 polls.
“I don’t see any Modi wave across Madhya Pradesh. The BJP has a habit of creating illusions. They tried to do it with India Shining; they are trying to do it with their new slogan: “Ab ki baar, Modi sarkar” (This time it is Modi’s government).This epitomises the thinking within the BJP which is individual-centric. Their sole aim is to capture power for Modi to become PM.”
Mr. Scindia, a three-time MP from Guna, has focussed his campaign solely on development and agrarian distress. Throughout his campaign trail, Mr. Scindia has been sporting a black ribbon around his right arm in protest against the M.P. government’s failure to release full compensation and insurance to farmers who lost crops in rain and hail in the past two years.
Targeting Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, he said, “On the one hand he says peasants are my gods. On the other hand, injustice is meted out to them.”
In father’s footsteps
Meanwhile, his rival BJP candidate and former Bajrang Dal president Jaibhan Singh Pawaiya’s campaign is focussed on targeting Mr. Scindia’s feudal roots. Mr. Pawaiya shot to fame in the 1998 election after losing by a mere 3.68 per cent margin in Gwalior to the Congress’ Madhavrao Scindia. The senior Scindia shifted his seat to Guna after that. “Projects worth Rs.9,000 crore have been implemented here in the last five years. That’s my report card. In life, one must never get pressurised to follow someone else’s agenda. Follow your own path and remain committed to it. That’s the lesson I learnt from my father.”