The royal seal on Madhya Pradesh politics
Making the transition from dynastic to electoral power is not easy but several royals have done it successfully, exercising influence just as their ancestors did.
Making the transition from dynastic to electoral power is not easy but several Madhya Pradesh royals have done it successfully, exercising influence just as their ancestors did -- though on the power of a vote.
In the years since 1956 when the state came into existence, there have been hits and misses, some royal families from central India who tried their hand but failed and yet others who made it to parliament.
The two major political parties of the state -- the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress -- have always patronized royalty for the clout they still wield in large parts of this feudal state.
The most prominent of them, of course, are the Scindias from the Gwalior dynasty, whose members have successfully straddled both the Congress and the BJP.
Their ancestors ruled over parts of central India before the country gained independence in 1947. And post-independence, the influence remains - with conditions attached, of course.
The Grande dame from the dynasty, the late Vijayaraje Scindia, started the trend of royalty joining politics.
She spawned a political dynasty that continues to grow. Though the matriarch was a staunch supporter of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) till her death, her son Madhav Rao Scindia was one of the Congress' most prominent leaders till he died in a plane crash in 2000.
Now, daughter Vasundhara Raje Scindia is BJP's chief minister in Rajasthan while her son Dushyant Singh is contesting from Jhalawar in the state.
And Madhav Rao Scindia's son Jyotiraditya is carrying on with his father's legacy and is contesting as a Congress candidate from Guna in Madhya Pradesh in this election.
And it all started with Madhya Pradesh's first general election in 1957 when Vijayaraje, also known as Rajmata (mother queen), contested from the Guna constituency as a Congress candidate and won by a margin on 60,000 votes.
In the following elections in 1962, she contested from her hometown Gwalior, again as a Congress candidate, and won.
She left the Congress and returned to Guna in 1967 as an independent candidate and won.
She then joined the Jana Sangh, the precursor of the BJP, and contested from Bhind in 1971 and won. Vijayaraje did not contest in 1977, 1980 and 1984 but returned to Guna in 1989 and continued to win from there until 1998.
Her son Madhav Rao also made his political debut in 1971 as a Jana Sangh candidate. He re-contested from Guna in 1977 as an independent candidate and won. He joined the Congress and contested from the constituency in 1980.
When he contested from his hometown Gwalior for the first time in 1984, after the assassination of prime minister Indira Gandhi, he was pitted against Atal Bihari Vajpayee and went on to defeat him by a whopping 175,000 votes.
He successively won from the constituency in 1989, 1991, 1996 and 1998 and moved to Guna in 1999. After his death in 2000, his son Jyotiraditya contested from the seat in a by-poll and won.
Interestingly, the mother and son never contested against each other.
Though the Scindias have been Madhya Pradesh's most prominent royals, there are others as well.
Like former chief minister Digvijay Singh who entered politics by winning from Raghogarh assembly constituency in 1984. He, however, failed to retain the seat in 1989 and lost to Pyarelal Khandelwal of BJP. Singh again won from there in 1991.
As state chief of the Congress, Singh took his party to victory in the assembly elections of 1993 and in 1998.
After Singh resigned as MP, his younger brother Luxman contested from the constituency in 1994 and won. He won from the constituency as a Congress candidate for three times in a row in 1996, 1998 and 1999.
Luxman is now seeking to be re-elected from the same constituency but as a BJP candidate.
The royal family, which ruled over Rewa in eastern Madhya Pradesh, has also been active in the politics of the state.
Maharaja Martand Singh of the family was elected from Rewa in 1971, 1980 and 1984. He won the first two elections as an independent and the last election as a Congress candidate.
Similarly, the members of the royal families of Panna and Rajgarh have been active in the politics. Lokendra Singh won from Panna constituency in 1984 while Bhanu Prakash Singh was elected from Rajgarh constituency in 1962.
The kingdom is dead. Long live the king - and the queens.