Royal factor counts in fight for Gwalior seat

Royal factor counts in fight for Gwalior seat

Once a Congress bastion and symbol of power of the Scindia royals, Gwalior is witnessing a contest between Madhya Pradesh BJP president Narendra Singh Tomar and Congress challenger Ashok Singh.

Gwalior, which goes to polls on April 17, has always voted in favour of any member from the Scindia family, whenever they chose to contest, or have favoured a person backed by the palace. The last time a royal family member came close to losing this seat was in 1998 when BJP’s Jaibhan Singh Pavaiya lost to Congress leader Madhavrao Scindia by a margin of mere 25,000 votes. It was after this election that Madhavrao shifted to neighbouring Guna, which he won comfortably in 1999.

However, Tomar appears to be sitting pretty this year having secured the backing of the palace. Yashodhara Raje Scindia, a two-term member of the Lok Sabha and currently a minister in the Madhya Pradesh government, has been actively campaigning for Tomar. So is Maya Singh, another member of the royal family and a minister in the state government.

Tomar had represented the neighbouring Morena Parliamentary seat in the outgoing 15th Lok Sabha. Things appeared to be difficult for him this time round forcing him to shift to Gwalior.

During his meetings across the constituency, the state BJP president has been selling his local boy image to the hilt. He was born in a Murar village, less than 10 km from Gwalior city.

“I was born here, I grew up in these same by-lanes and played in this very ground. You have backed me as a corporator, now I seek your blessings for the Lok Sabha elections,” Tomar said addressing a meeting in Murar.

He reeled out a list of development works carried out by the state government led by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and promises to do more if elected to the Lok Sabha. “Narendra Modi in Delhi, Shivraj in the state, and Tomar in Gwalior. Together we will pull out all stops to serve you better,” he said. Ashok Singh, the Congress candidate, is no novice. He has contested the Lok Sabha elections in 2007 and 2009 and lost to Yashodhara Raje. He too is a local leader who enjoys a clean image and is known for his public outreach.

The Congress as an organisation appears to be in shambles with local leaders looking at different directions.

That the palace was backing Tomar was clear when Jyotiraditya Scindia stayed away from the roadshow Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi took out in Gwalior last week.

Initially, Tomar’s poll campaign appeared to flounder as he was not attracting crowds at public meeting, but things have changed with Chouhan making the state BJP chief’s victory a prestige issue.

The chief minister has addressed a number of public meetings across the constituency, which have been well received.

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