Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Dacoits long gone but caste continues to thrive in Chambal ravines

The Gwalior-Chambal region, which is in the northern part of the state, borders Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan and has three seats, namely Gwalior, Morena and Bhind, which is reserved for Scheduled Castes. A part of the Chambal region is in Shivpuri district and falls under Guna Lok Sabha seat.
Last Updated : 05 May 2024, 08:15 IST
Last Updated : 05 May 2024, 08:15 IST

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Bhopal: Madhya Pradesh's Chambal region, once the staple for Bollywood's dacoit and gunslinger dramas, is also a massive caste cauldron where change is seeping in due to modernisation, say a section of people.

The Gwalior-Chambal region, which is in the northern part of the state, borders Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan and has three seats, namely Gwalior, Morena and Bhind, which is reserved for Scheduled Castes. A part of the Chambal region is in Shivpuri district and falls under Guna Lok Sabha seat.

Gwalior, Morena and Bhind (SC) Lok Sabha seats are dominated by Other Backward Classes with a sizable population of SCs.

Of the 24 assembly constituencies falling under these three Lok Sabha seats, the Congress had won 13 and the BJP 12 in the November 2023 elections, which was otherwise swept by the ruling party.

Of the eight assembly segments of Gwalior and Bhind Lok Sabha seats, the BJP and the Congress won four each, while in Morena, the score was five in favour of the Congress and four for the BJP.

The three assembly seats in Shivpuri were swept by the BJP.

Bhuvnesh Singh Tomar, a professor at Centre for Studies in Journalism and Mass Communication in Gwalior's Jiwaji University, told PTI that caste sentiments were rooted even when the Gwalior-Chambal region was infested with bandits, dacoits or 'baghis' (rebels) as these outlaws loved to call themselves.

"Casteism in politics is not new. It always existed in the Chambal region, except on occasions when towering leaders, like those from the Scindia family, contested. But a lot of social changes have taken place in the past three decades due to increased road connectivity and modernisation," Tomar said.

Over the last two decades, the Dalits and backwards have become assertive and are playing a dominant role in politics, he said.

"The last two Lok Sabha elections in this area were held around the narrative set by the BJP. The indication this time is not clear as campaigning is very low-key. BJP candidates were looking weak earlier as the party fielded leaders from Gwalior and Morena, who lost polls earlier," he said.

However, a strong organisational set-up and the Narendra Modi effect will benefit BJP candidates, Tomar claimed, adding that several leaders from the Congress, including sitting party MLA from Vijaypur (Morena LS seat) Ramniwas Rawat have joined the ruling dispensation.

Devesh Sharma, a Morena-based lawyer, claimed caste politics had managed to segregate society, government offices, markets etc in the past three to four decades.

"Caste came first and then nationalism for the people of this region, which inspired so many films due to its ravines and bandits. These bandits used to influence politics in rural areas earlier but those days are long gone," he said.

KK Mishra, media advisor to state Congress chief Jitu Patwari, told PTI that his party will win half the Lok Sabha seats in the Gwalior-Chambal region.

"Gwalior-Chambal region has traditionally supported the Congress and we will win half the seats here. The BJP knows this fact and will try to manipulate the elections through EVMs. The BJP is ahead only in publicity," Mishra alleged.

The Congress is on very strong ground as was evident in the assembly polls results, he pointed out.

However, state BJP spokesperson Pankaj Chaturvedi told PTI that his party would win all the Lok Sabha seats in the region.

"The BJP has gone to the voters on the guarantees of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the developmental works done by him as well as welfare schemes for the poor. We don't contest on the basis of caste or religion like Congress," he claimed.

Chaturvedi further claimed that the people are aware that the Congress wants to snatch the quota of OBCs and give it Muslims on the basis of religion like they did in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

The ravines along the river Chambal, which runs through Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan and gives the region its name, was infested with dacoits, though the last major gang, led by Rambabu Gadariya, ended some 15 years ago.

Among the blockbuster films that had Chambal and its bandit lore as base include Sholay, Mera Gaon Mera Desh, Gunga Jumna, Mujhe Jeene Do and Bandit Queen.

According to a BJP leader, the Gwalior Lok Sabha seat has 46 per cent OBCs and 20 per cent SCs, while STs form 5 per cent of the population. The rest are from the general category.

The seat was represented by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1971. Jan Sangh stalwart and BJP founder member Rajmata Vijaya Raje Scindia won from Gwalior seat in 1962 on a Congress ticket, while her son Madhavrao Scindia was elected five times, four times from on a Congress ticket and once on the ticket of the Madhya Pradesh Vikas Congress, a party founded by him.

The population profile in Morena Lok Sabha seat is 44 per cent OBCs, 20 per cent SCs, 6 per cent STs and the remainder in the general category.

Madhya Pradesh assembly speaker Narendra Singh Tomar, a former Union minister, was elected from Morena in 2009 and 2014. He was chosen as MLA in the 2023 assembly polls.

In Bhind, 43 per cent voters belong to the OBC segment, 23 per cent are SCs, 21 per cent are from the general category and 1 per cent are STs.

Vijaya Raje Scindia was elected from Bhind LS seat in 1971. Her daughter Vasundhara Raje Scindia, former Rajasthan chief minister, incidentally, faced defeat from this seat in 1984 at the hands of Congress' Krishna Singh Judeo, who is part of the royal family of Datia.

Published 05 May 2024, 08:15 IST

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