Scindia’s dropping brand value

As campaign for 28 byelections for the Madhya Pradesh Assembly hots up, BJP withdraws Jyotiraditya Scindia from the firing line but expects him to bag 16 seats for the party

Scindia’s dropping brand value

Chandrakant Naidu

A fresh twist in the election tale in Gwalior-Chambal region has again got voters talking about Jyotiraditya Scindia’s drooping brand value in the BJP. The vehicles sporting digital posters of star campaigners have dropped Scindia’s image while retaining only those of state BJP chief V D Sharma and chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. Now the slogans read “Shivraj hai toh Vishwas hai.”

This is not the first time the Gwalior Royal scion has been sidelined by the BJP. Ever since he defected from the Congress with his followers, BJP leaders frequently and publicly resented neglect of original workers.

In Sanwer near Indore, where the Scindia’s closest supporter Tulsi Silawat is contesting, hoardings had focused on BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya. Scindia’s image was placed alongside junior members like Vijayvargiya's son Akash, a local MLA. This had caused considerable heartburn among Scindia supporters.

Scindia is placed at number 10th among the 30 star campaigners in the BJP. Lesser known leaders like BJP vice-president Dushyant Kumar Gautam who headed the party’s Scheduled Caste Cell has been kept ahead of Scindia in the list. Union Ministers Narendra Singh Tomar, Thawar Chand Gehlot and Dharmendra Pradhan and former chief minister Uma Bharti, also precede Scindia in the list. State President VD Sharma has been placed first and Shivraj has been placed second. Four more Dalit and two tribal leaders complete the list.

Congress was quick to point out that Scindia was the head of the party’s election campaign committee in the 2018 assembly election. The BJP responded by saying that the list is based on rank and seniority.

Those who helped Scindia bring down the Kamal Nath government in March always refer to him as Maharaj.  Congress now says he compromised his stature in the political hierarchy.

Scindia, who failed to retain his Guna seat in the Lok Sabha elections in May, is under pressure to secure the 16 seats in the region for BJP. Some recent videos going viral on social media show him describing himself as “Maharaj.” Scindia was telling a sparsely-attended meeting. “Tell everyone this election is not just for the local candidate but for “Maharaj,” he said

The 28-seat by-elections are now directly focused on Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan and former Chief Minister Kamal Nath. Both have intensified attacks on each other. Congress is particularly aggressive against Scindia given his influence in Gwalior-Chambal region.

But the BJP finds it prudent to keep him off the firing line especially due to intra-party hostility to him. The party believes the six “other” seats where defectors are not in the fray should be targeted to keep a demanding Scindia in check.

Kamal Nath, on the other hand, seems to have owned up the entire campaign. The Congress manifesto also has projected only Sonia Gandhi and Kamal Nath. Another key leader Digvijaya Singh is also staying away from election meetings and is engaged in strategizing backstage.

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Published: 16 Oct 2020, 11:57 AM