On Digvijaya Singh’s home turf in Raghogarh, Scindia seeks his ‘revenge’
In the constituency bordering Rajasthan, voters have no doubt that the battle is between the erstwhile ‘Maharajah’ of Gwalior and the erstwhile ‘Rajah’ of Raghogarh
The two cousins are like chalk and cheese. Jaivardhan Singh is calm, dignified and respectful while Hirendra Singh’s public image is of a brash rabble rouser. The two cousins had campaigned together and sought votes for the Congress in the last assembly election in 2018. This time Hirendra Singh is the BJP candidate against former state minister and two-term Congress MLA Jaivardhan Singh at Raghogarh in Guna.
Both the candidates hailing from the erstwhile royal family of Raghogarh, loyalty is divided. But more than a contest between cousins, the election here has turned out into a show of strength between union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia and Congress leader and former chief minister Digvijaya Singh.
Scindia had defected from the Congress and brought down the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh headed by Kamal Nath. Differences with Digvijaya Singh and grudges that he may have harboured manifested in Scindia luring Hirendra Singh, known in the region as ‘Bunty-Banna’ to the BJP and made him the BJP vice-president of the Guna unit. Jaivardhan Singh, son of Digvijaya Singh, was the sitting MLA and Hirendra Singh, his cousin, is the son of Mool Singh, a cousin of Digvijaya Singh.
Scindia has invested much time and energy in Raghogarh and has made every attempt to win the seat for the BJP. Scindia had rarely stepped into Raghogarh earlier although it falls in Guna, which he represented. This time he has addressed two rallies in
Raghogarh in the last three weeks and also persuaded union home minister Amit Shah and chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan to campaign for Hirendra Singh. Recalling that BJP has never won the seat till now, Amit Shah called upon voters to correct their mistake this time.
Street smart voters recall that in the 2019 general election, it was his childhood friend K.P. Yadav who defeated Scindia in Guna by over one lakh votes. By pitting the two cousins belonging to the erstwhile royal family in Raghogarh, Scindia is trying to plot a similar script, they say.
In contrast, Digvijaya Singh has not returned to Raghogarh after his son filed his nomination this time. The campaigning has been left to others. His brother, Laxman Singh, who is contesting from an adjoining constituency scoffed at Shah and Scindia’s plot to overthrow the Congress from the region. “They are truly funny people. The BJP government gave the best MLA awards to Jaivardhan and me…and now they are asking people not to vote for us…”.
For now, the citadel of Raja Saab, as Digvijaya Singh is called, and the Baba Saab, as his son is addressed, seems to be safe. Jaivardhan made his debut in the assembly by winning the seat in 2013 and was re-elected in 2018 from the remote constituency bordering Rajasthan with 2.36 lakh votes.
Old-timers concede that Digvijay Singh had nursed his constituency well. They also continue to have an enviable bonding with the people, they claim. "No one returns empty-handed irrespective of their ideology or background," says Gulab Singh Meena of Fazalpur village. What is more, the rural area has a plant of Gas Authority of India [GAIL], another of National Fertilizers Limited, an Engineering college and ITIs established long ago.
Aspirations, however, are higher and people are clamouring for good hospitals, schools, better roads and more regular water supply. BJP is tapping into these grievances and promising to improve public amenities. The memory of the BJP candidate’s father, Mool Singh, known as Dada Bhai in the region, is also a factor the BJP is banking on. Mool Singh had himself won the seat in 1985 and thereafter in 2008 with Digvijaya Singh’s blessings. In 2013, however, when Jaivardhan Singh became eligible to contest, he vacated the seat.
Hirendra Singh explains that he left the Congress because of ideological differences. "Ram Lalla was forced to live in a tent under Congress rule. It's the BJP which gave him due respect and paved the way for the Ram temple,” he tells voters. Jaivardhan Singh, in contrast, reiterates the party’s promises related to farm loan waiver, power bills waiver, monthly stipend to women, stipend to school children, resuming old pension scheme and promises to fight day-to-day corruption. "In every village or locality, I visit, the people complain about corruption," he claims.