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Shivpuri: battleground royale

Members of Scindia family are fighting it out to secure political space for their respective parties.

india Updated: Dec 10, 2013 17:34 IST

It's a royal battle in Shivpuri where members of Scindia family are fighting it out to secure political space for their respective parties, BJP and Congress.

But just five kilometres away from the town, there are tribal habitations unaware of the political wars being fought on this land.

It's a constituency nursed by the royal Scindia family for decades. BJP has brought back its Gwalior MP Yashodhara Raje to contest from Shivpuri seat for the third time.

The Congress candidate is former MLA Birendra Raghuvnshi, who had won the seat in 2007 assembly by-poll, when Raje resigned from the seat and became a Lok Sabha MP from Gwalior.

Sitting BJP MLA Makhanlal Rathore, a close aide of Raje trounced the Congress candidate in 2008 in a keenly-contested triangular contest.

Jyotiraditya Scindia, son of late Congress leader Madhavrao Scindia, is MP from Guna, under which the Shivpuri assembly seat falls. Yashodhara Raje is Madhavrao's sister.

In 2008, both Yashodhara and her son Akshay had campaigned for the BJP candidate, while Jyotiraditya had campaigned in favour of the Congress candidate.

Analysts feel the move by the BJP to field Yashodhara from Shivpuri this time appears as part of its larger game plan to corner the Scindia scion Jyotirdaitya on his home turf after he was made his party's campaign committee chief and the virtual CM candidate of Congress, which is out of power in the state since 2003.

Under the same strategy, another BJP MP Maya Singh, related to Scindias, has been fielded from Gwalior East assembly segment.

These intricacies, however, have little relevance for a large section of people.

At Kathmai village settlement near the town, where the Saharia community of tribals lives, 30-year-old Uttam does not know who is the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh.

Nor does he know what political post, Sonia Gandhi holds. 'Manmohan Singh' is his answer when asked who is chief minister of your state.

He turns apologetic saying "I do not know that much" when told that Shivraj Singh Chouhan is the chief minister.

He, however, believes that 'Behen ji', as Yashodhara Raje is known popularly here, has support among the people.

The 100 odd families of the tribal community have been resettled here after they were evicted from Madhav National Sanctuary.

A large number of such villages were relocated then.

"This tribal community has a population of at least 20 thousand in the Shivpuri district but no one has risen in politics from among them. They have been left behind in this cut throat competition," says Pramod Bhargav, an author and political commentator.

Villagers are either involved in farming 'lobia' or gram crops or engaged in stone cutting. They complain that the paucity of water has brought down the number of crops they grow from two to one. Growing lobia requires less water.

Prem Naryan Kushwaha claims that the traders are unhappy with both Congress and BJP.

"You will see that a large of voters will press the NOTA button to declare their aversion for all candidates. What do we do. There are more shops than buyers here.

"It is hard to make both ends meet with this income. I voted in last five elections but nothing changed. Lot of people are migrating from here. I will also pack up and try to find a livelihood somewhere else," he says.

Election Commission has from this year introduced NOTA, giving voters a right to vote for none of the candidates.

As politics of the royals and parties plays out full throttle in Shivpuri, residents grapple with the basic problems.

Infrastructure issues are a major concern. There is no drainage system, residents complain. An ambitious drinking water project is under implementation for last five years.

Both BJP and Congress blame each other for the delay.

There are complaints from some that the Scindias are not approachable. While Raje lives in Kattha Mill compound, Jyotiraditya lives in Bombay Kothi, whenever he comes to Shivpuri.

Yashodhara Raje, however, says she is confident that people will elect her as she had worked for the development of the area during her two terms.

"I do not need to put up a loudspeaker to speak for myself," she told PTI.

Asked is she worried about the Congress challenge this time, she replies in negative and claims that chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is "very popular" and her party has "nothing to worry" from the Congress.

She, however, refused to entertain questions about the prospects of Congress, whose campaign is headed by her nephew Jyotiraditya, saying "why should I be seeing the possibilities of Congress, when I am in the BJP".

Congress candidate Birendra Raghuvanshi, who had won the seat in 2007 and lost to the BJP in 2008 with less than 2 % votes, began his election preparation much early and is a considered a strong contender but the fact remains that the Scindia family has never lost an election from here.

Congress had won the seat thrice in 1980, 85 and 2007 while in all other elections since 1977, BJP won the seat.

Yashodhara Raje first contested the seat in 1998 and got around 51 % of total votes defeating the Congress candidate Hariballabh Shukla.

In 2003 assembly poll, Raje's victory margin grew. In 1998, Congress got around 43 % vote, which came down to around 32 in 2003.

In 2008, BJP candidate Makhanlal Rathore won the seat defeating Birendra Raghuvanshi of Congress in a keenly contested triangular election.

All the three Congress, BJP and the then Uma Bharti-led Bhartiya Janshakti Party got votes between 22 and 23.5 %.

The BJS then led by Uma Bharti had got around 22 % votes. This factor is not there now with Bharti back in the BJP.

Lodhis have a good population here and hence BSP fielded a candidate from the community but he withdrew his nomination at the last moment.?The withdrawal?led to a big drama as charges flied thick and fast that it was a "paid" withdrawal.

It is a direct contest now and so both candidates do not want to leave any stone unturned.

The BJP leader is campaigning along with her US-based son Akshay Raje Scindia Bhansali Raje is the daughter of BJP stalwart Rajmata Vijayraje Scindia and her sister Vasundhara Raje, former Chief Minister of Rajasthan is the BJP's face there in this assembly election in the state, which is?currently under Congress rule.

Shivpuri is close to Rajasthan. The troika districts of Gwalior-Shivpuri-Guna are important for the political future of both Yashodhara Raje and Jyotiraditya Scindia in the rival political parties.

Ahead of the 1984 Lok Sabha elections, Madhavrao Scindia had broken away from mother Vijayraje, a BJP stalwart and joined rival Congress.

Madhaorao contested the Lok Sabha election and defeated the veteran BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Gwalior.

In 2007, BJP sprang a surprise nominating Madhavrao's younger sister Yashodhara, then a Cabinet minister in Madhya Pradesh government to contest Gwalior Lok Sabha seat.

A section of locals believe that Raje is contesting the seat as a stop gap arrangement and she could again go back to her Lok Sabha seat leaving Shivpuri for son Akshay.

Raje,?however says that she is contesting from here as the Chief Minister wanted her to do so.

Akshay reminds that he is a US citizen when asked about the buzz about he being the future face of the BJP for Shivpuri. But he does not deny the contention altogether maaintaing that such a decision cannot be taken in haste and he will join politics only if he seriously feels that he should do it.

He also dismissed contentions that Raje will leave the seat soon if she wins saying "my mother is here to stay".

He also downplayed the charge that they are not approachable. "People meet her daily. After all she won twice," he counters.

Raje refers to infrastructure development work during her last two terms.

So does Jyotiraditya Scindia. He also refers to the role of his father Madhavrao in bringing industries in the region.

A few days back, Jyotiraditya?addressed an election rally in Shivpuri in favour of the Congress candidate--- perhaps the first a Scindia entered the domain of another Scindia.

"Never before has Jyotiraditya Scindia or his father Madhavrao Scindia come to campaign in Shivpuri for Congress candidates, when Yashodhara Raje had contested," says a local.

Akhsay, however, emphatically says that "ideological differences" have not affected family relationship adding that he has "great regard" for his cousin.