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Scindia’s candidates grapple with sullen BJP workers

Former Union Minister and BJP Rajya Sabha Member Jyotiraditya Scindia being welcomed during an election meeting in Chhach of Pohri State Assembly Constituency in Shivpuri District.   | Photo Credit: A.M. Faruqui

For BJP worker Chattur Singh, the task of convincing voters to back a candidate who till recently was with the Congress is fraught with challenges.

“Well, I am not sure why Maharaj (Jyotiraditya Scindia) and his supporters changed sides. Maybe because they felt ignored?” he ventures when confronted by a voter attending Mr. Scindia’s public meeting in Shivpuri district.

Foes-turned-friends

As in 25 of the 28 Assembly seats up for byelection in Madhya Pradesh, older BJP workers in Pohari Vidhan Sabha constituency have reluctantly buried the hatchet to canvass for their former adversaries, against whom they had campaigned vehemently just two years back in 2018.

On the podium in Chharch village, BJP leader Prahlad Bharti found himself standing awkwardly next to candidate Suresh Dhakad, who had defeated him on a Congress ticket. And Mr. Scindia’s strong influence, which he successfully thwarted twice to be elected to the Assembly, now looms over him.

“The BJP is one family, and we welcome those who join us with open arms,” said Mr. Bharti with a smile pasted on his face. “The sangathan is supreme and we will follow its instructions. Anyway Mr. Dhakad was elected for five years so why not let him continue? At least the BJP government is back.”

Image diminished

The stature and public appeal of Mr. Scindia or ‘Maharaj’ as he is referred to had visibly declined after he switched sides in March, admitted Mr. Singh.

“It’s like he had a permanent government job, but now holds a contractual one. There is no certainty. How do we resolve the inner conflict to support those we’ve fought against so far? The leadership has told us we needed to be patient. Apna time aayega (Our time will come). ”

On the banner in the backdrop, portraits of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Mr. Scindia appear on the opposite ends, as if emblematic of the former acrimonious political relationship. “Why are both of them holding rallies separately? This still shows some differences are yet to be resolved,” said Devesh Mohne, a college student. On October 23, Mr. Chouhan addressed the public in the same village.

A group of 300 BJP workers from Baran district, 150 km away in Rajasthan, are also eagerly listening to the speakers. “Even Sachin Pilot should have joined the BJP. All young leaders within the Congress are being ignored,” said Surendra Khatik.

Squatting along with another villager, Tarasia Adivasi is miffed at being forcibly told to attend the meeting. “We will anyway vote for whoever we want. I have just come to see the helicopter,” he said. For tribals in the constituency, land grabbing by upper castes was the major poll issue, he said. An owner of 65 bighas, Mr. Tarasia gets to cultivate only five.

“The Congress dared me to take to the streets, and I am here now. We will make them taste the dust,” Mr. Scindia concludes, amid roaring applause and cheers, and rushes to the helicopter. The mass of 5,000 villagers abruptly breaks off, and they perch atop tree branches and rooftops to wave at the helicopter as it takes off, leaving a cloud of dust behind.

“We will vote in the wind’s direction,” quipped Mausambi Adivasi. “I didn’t understand what was said from the stage, as they were all shouting in the microphone. I will press the hand button and vote for Mr. Scindia,” said Ms. Mausambi, unaware of the leader’s new political affiliation.

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2020 12:09:39 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/scindias-candidates-grapple-with-sullen-bjp-workers/article32948470.ece

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