Gwalior: The bypolls on the 28 seats in Madhya Pradesh will be a test of the unity within the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) as the 25 Congress MLAs who switched to the saffron party in March 20 this year are all in the fray.
When the BJP declared all 25 Congress MLAs who defected as their candidates for bypolls while leaving behind many of its own leaders with ambition, none of them opposed the move. Their silence took many by surprise but kept the BJP safe from external damage. However, the silence further translated itself to an inactiveness of the workers on grounds even 10 days before the polling on November 3.
Aiming for a comfortable victory in the bypolls, the BJP was left worrying about the inactiveness of its workers. Meanwhile, the Congress set the pitch for the bypolls painting Jyotiraditya Scindia and the 25 defectors as ‘gaddars’ (traitor) who switched parties by taking Rs 35 crores and betrayed the voters’ trust. They urged the masses to support their ‘gaddar nahi wafaadar’ candidates in a bid to save the democratic process--a message that began resonating with the masses.
While not directly fighting the elections, one person who found himself in the midst of a dual attack from the Congress as his opposition and the disgruntled senior BJP leaders within his current party was Rajya Sabha MP, Jyotiraditya Scindia. The former Congress leader’s defection to BJP along with the other MLAs eventually made the Kamal Nath government fall.
With many of the BJP leaders remaining inactive on ground opposing Scindia’s entry, what has come to his aid is the tacit support from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The RSS, the BJP’s ideological parent, shares old ties with Jyotiraditya’s grandmother, Rajmata Vijayaraje Scindia who had contributed towards in setting up the saffron party. Scindia has been prompt in connecting with his roots to establish his credentials within the BJP and the RSS and can be heard claiming it in most of his rallies--“This is my grandmother’s party and it is my homecoming.”
On many seats, from where the turncoat MLAs are contesting, BJP leaders have been asked to gather support for their hitherto arch rivals considering the party’s decision to field them in the election. “Despite having a long history of personal rivalry, I can’t openly oppose the candidate as he is now in my own party,” said a senior BJP leader who has been awarded a higher post in the party recently.
However, he said that nearly 90% workers are now back on the ground gathering support for the party and added that the “Elections are agnipariksha where senior BJP and Sangh leaders watch you. While being in all kinds of pain, one has to carry on the party’s work. This instils the faith in senior leaders that the party worker will stand strong no matter how severe the storm.”
According to senior office bearer of the RSS in Madhya Bharat, which overviews the Gwalior-Chambal region, said, “There is always a soft corner for Scindia owing to his roots and the association of his grandmother.”
To douse the anger of the party leaders and workers, the BJP has been holding a number of meetings from block to state levels. Scindia himself has taken a humble tone in addressing even the lowest rung of party worker. “Jo insaan kisi se milta nahi tha, wo aaj khud phone karta hai aur jaa kar milta hai, toh fark toh padega naa,” said a senior office bearer of the Sangh from Madhya Bharat.
While the RSS appears to have done away with any form of open rebellion against the Maharaj of Gwalior, senior leaders like Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Union minister Narendra Singh Tomar have hit the ground to mobilise the local leaders of the region to tilt the caste balance in the BJP’s favour.
“Aaj hamare pass satta hai toh unki wajah se. Humein unko jitana hai. Aagar aap Shivraj ko pasand karte hai toh aap Scinida ji aur unke saathiyo ko pasand karna padega (if we are in power today it is because of him. We have to make him win. If you like Shivraj, then you have to like Scindia and his comrades),” is what Chouhan has informed various local leaders of the party, sources say. The regional BJP leaders across the state have been asked to gather support for Scindia and treat these bypolls as ‘vyaktigat ladai’ or personal battles.
Currently, the election does not seem to be an uphill battle for the the BJP as it has 107 MLAs while the Congress has 88. The BJP needs to win only nine more seats to reach the majority mark of 116 in the 230-member house.
The senior leaders of Shatriya Mahasabha, an organisation of the upper caste Thakurs, who had attended one of the meetings of CM Chouhan and Union minister Tomar to convince the thakur voters. However, one of them, Surendra Singh Tomar said, “The deflectors have been given tickets this time, but there are no other assured candidates in the election to follow.”
The Thakur caste dominates the Gwalior-Chambal region and it has voted against the BJP in 2018 assembly election because of Shivraj’s comment over SC/ST act and reservation. But if these efforts will bring in fruitful results for the BJP will only be clear with the announcements of the bypoll results on November 10.