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Call it Raja?s luck, Raghogarh was dereserved in 1977

Raghogarh constituency was de-reserved in 1977 and Digvijay Singh contested the elections as an independent candidate with Congress support, writes Ashutosh Shukla

india Updated: Nov 26, 2003 14:28 IST

Not many people are aware that this high-profile constituency was a non-descript reserved constituency till 1972. The only distinction it carried then was the domination of erstwhile Jan Sangh over the seat, which was an unusual phenomenon in a constituency reserved for Scheduled Castes.

But, call it the luck of the Raja of Raghogarh or his subjects that this constituency was de-reserved in 1977 and Digvijay Singh contested the elections as an independent candidate with Congress support. He won the elections and has never looked back since. But the point of contention in this election, 25 years after he was first elected from the constituency, is
whether he has nurtured his constituency with the same meticulous care as his political
career.

Digvijay Singh, who was municipality chairman in 1977 and would never have thought of contesting the elections if the constituency had not been de-reserved, has gone on to become one of the tallest leaders from the State but what about his constituency?

This is the question being pressingly asked by the battery of top BJP leaders making rounds of the constituency to make a dent in this fort of Diggy Raja. And, people are thinking! What Digvijay Singh could have done for his constituency particularly after becoming the Chief Minister a decade ago is an imaginative ‘spicy dish’ being served to the rural electorate of this constituency with a promise that BJP would do what their Raja failed to do.

“He has taken you for granted. He has betrayed you”, is the sum total of what Shivraj Singh Chauhan, the high-profile BJP candidate against Digvijay Singh, has to say. Bad roads, long hours of power cut, lack of job opportunities and general backwardness of the area comes in handy for him to take a dig at the Raja. And, people clap and laugh as he moves on from one folk tale to another to drive home his point.

Digvijay Singh, on his part, does not find it essential to join the debate with BJP leaders in his own bastion. His younger brother, Chhote Raja Laxman Singh, wife, relatives and aides, who are in plenty, will do the job for him.

They will not explain but seek vote and support for the Raja and the job will be done, feel the Congressmen.

This may sound a little too optimistic but past records support their optimism. In 1972, Hiralal Shakyavar of the Jan Sangh had won the elections against Khubchand Dhuliya of the Congress. The seat was reserved for Scheduled Castes then and he had won by a margin of over 6,400 votes.

In the subsequent elections in 1977, when the seat was de-reserved, amidst Janta Party storm raging all over, Digvijay Singh as an independent candidate with Congress support defeated one Dinesh of Janta Party by less than 2,000 votes. The Congress could guage that there could be no better candidate on this seat than the Raja and he was immediately taken into the party fold.

The number of voters has increased many-fold since then and so has increased the margin of victory for the Raja. It was 54,000 in the last elections with almost 83 per cent of the electorate voting for Digvijay Singh. It is clear that even the young voters have continued to be ‘loyal’ to the Raja. There is no restlessness for change so very natural among the young! Growing stature of Raja has only helped him increase his influence among the electorate.

Castes and religion all crumble in this caste-sensitive region against Raja’s overpowering influence. But Shivraj Singh Chauhan is working hard to muster support of Dhakads, the caste he belongs to, that has a sizeable presence in Raghogarh. His wife is staying among the clusters of Dhakad families in Raghogarh tehsil to ‘steal’ their votes.

Despite hard work being put in by Shivraj and his party, he may not succeed because he is beginning from scratch. And, it is taking time to even identify BJP workers and supporters, who have remained in their shell for so long.

But, he has indeed made a beginning and may be he also ‘adopts’ Raghogarh as the constituency to work on after defeat as BJP State president Kailash Joshi has done with Rajgarh Lok Sabha constituency.

And, yes if he narrows the margin of defeat by a considerable degree, it would not be any mean achievement either!

First Published: Nov 26, 2003 14:28 IST