Bhopal: As the date for by-polls for 28 Assembly seats in Madhya Pradesh approaches, the images of election rallies across the parties are much the same. Packed crowds without masks and no social distancing are the norm in these election rallies, despite the Gwalior Bench of the high court’s order to not hold the same owing to the ongoing pandemic.
There is another dimension in the election rallies of former Chief Minister Kamal Nath in the Gwalior-Chambal region this time. Following Jyotiraditya Scindia’s shift to the Bharatiya Janata Party, Nath is encountering a new found popularity among Scindia’s followers in the state. Out 28 seats that are going for by-polls, 16 are from this region.
The 73-year-old veteran Congress leader, who is not very familiar with the ravines and caste-equation of the Gwalior-Chambal region, has been addressing at least two rallies a day in the area. He has been focussing on the achievements of the 15-month long government under his leadership during the rallies.
In one such rally in Morena on October 24, he said, “After the 15 years of misrule of BJP, the people of Madhya Pradesh voted the Congress in 2018. And as promised in our manifesto, we began to fulfill it. From farm loan waiver of 26 lakh farmers to electricity at Rs 100. But, it did not go well with the BJP, and they pulled us down by purchasing our MLAs.”
His scathing attack on the current BJP government and terming of Scindia as a “traitor” has been drawing huge applause from the crowds in various rallies. He also takes recourse to the historical significance of the region to touch the nationalist sentiments. In Morena, he said, “Chambal ke pani me bagawat hai magar gaddari nahi. Aur yaha ke janta ye sabit kar ke rahe ge (The people of Chambal are rebellious but not traitors and they will prove it certainly).
Strategically, Nath is the only Congress leader who is single-handedly campaigning on the 16 seats of the Gwalior-Chambal region, projecting himself as the only face of the Congress against the stalwarts of the BJP. He is pulling more crowds than the BJP’s stalwarts in the region.
“Neither I’m Maharaj, Kisan ke beta nor Chaiwala, I’m simply Kamal Nath, who believes in working,” he says in the first five minutes of every rally. And the crows respond to him with an applause.
Nath who claimed to waive the farm loan of 26 lakh farmers in 15-month of rule has already promised not to implement the three farm laws recently passed by the Government and pass law against underrate sale of crops below minimum support price.
"Congress makes pro-farmer policies irrespective of the BJP Government which is bluntly benefiting the few businessmen," said 70-year-old Narayan Singh Kushwaha of Jagatpur panchayat, who was seating in the rally.
On October 24, Nath took his last rally in Gujjar and Thakur voters dominated Morena district. Five seats of the district -- Morena, Ambha, Dimni, Jaura, Sumaoli -- are going for by-polls on November 3, in which Congress is upbeat in Ambha, Dimni, Sumaoli. While on two seats -- Morena and Jaura -- the fight is triangular between the Congress, the BJP and the BSP.
To woo the Gujjar voters, Kamal Nath has roped in Deputy Chief Minister of Rajasthan and Gujjar face of Congress, Sachin Pilot. Pilot will be on two-day tour on Oct 27 and 28 in Morena and Gwalior.
“If Congress manages to take thakur voters in its fold, it can win all five seats of Morena,” a local journalist Rajnish Dubey commented.
Meanwhile, CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan, while addressing a rally in a dalit dominated seat where unemployment and migration is rampant, made an unusual announcement. "Will give reservation to the people of Ambah for employment in the factories which will be established after the completion of 404-km long Atal Chambal Express Way." However, he failed to explain how this would be realised.
In contrast to Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who has announced the development projects of Rs 3000 crore last month in the region, Kamal Nath is making no promises except to resume his previous policies.