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MP Elections: Why Digvijaya Singh's Home Turf Raghogarh is Invincible for BJP!

Since 1977, Singh's family has held the Raghogarh seat. But this time, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Amit Shah are pushing hard by fielding a former Congress leader, Hirendra Singh, in the poll fray.
Since 1977, Singh's family has held the Raghogarh seat. But this time, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Amit Shah are pushing hard by fielding a former Congress leader, Hirendra Singh, in the poll fray.

BhopalRaja saab and Baba saab are household names in Raghogarh - once a princely state of Madhya Pradesh and the home turf of former Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh. Both the names enjoy immense goodwill and respect among the voters. They refer Raja Saab to Digvijaya Singh and Baba Saab to the former cabinet minister and his son Jaivardhan Singh.

It's because of their deep benevolence with the residents of the Raghogarh Assembly seat of Guna district the victory of two-term MLA Jaivardhan Singh from his family seat is a foregone conclusion although the polling is on November 17, and results will be declared on December 3. Jaivardhan Singh won his debut Assembly election in 2013 with 58,204 votes and in 2018 with 46,697 -- a drop of 11,507 votes.

A remotely located constituency with 2.36 lakh votes, Raghogarh shares its borders with Rajasthan; the family has ruled the seat since 1977, elected Digvijaya Singh, his brother Laxman Singh, his cousin, late Mool Singh, and his son Jaivardhan Singh for the past two polls to the state Assembly.

The old-timers say Digvijaya Singh nursed his constituency well and created a durable bond with the voters. "No one returns without help in times of dire need, irrespective of their ideology or the background," says Gulab Singh Meena, a resident of Fazalpur village located on Guna-Bhopal Road of the constituency where Jaivardhan went to campaign on November 12. "Almost every known villager has direct access to the family," he said.

The remotely located agrarian region, Raghogarh, has a plant of the Gas Authority of India [GAIL], another plant of National Fertilisers Limited and an Engineering college and ITI institutes which were established decades ago. But the locals also point out that the development of the region is overdue. The city lacks a good hospital, schools and basic amenities like proper roads and regular water supply. But their personal bonding with the locals overrides these issues.

To emphasise their deep bond with the locals, the villagers recall an incident. One, Sumant Meena [25], a budding advocate from Fazalpur village, said that when one of his villagers, Raju Meena [30], died in a road accident on Raksha Bandhan this year, Baba Saab[Jaivardhan Singh], not only called the family to console them but also visited his home the next day and mourned his death. "Meena wasn't known to him, but he cares for the people of their region," he said. 

For the past four decades, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been trying to win over the Raghogarh Assembly seat. In 2003, the party fielded Shivraj Singh Chouhan against Digvijaya, but the two-term chief minister won with a margin of over 21,000 votes. Despite a strong BJP wave across the state in that election, Chouhan was the first, and until now, the only BJP candidate who had managed to put up a credible fight in the seat.

But the politics in Raghogarh took a major shift when Jyotiraditya Scindia joined BJP with 22 rebel MLAs. A year after Scindia joined BJP, he lured Hirendra Singh [48], aka Bunty Banna, son of Digvijaya Singh's cousin Mool Singh, into the saffron fold and made him vice-president of the party’s Guna unit.


In a politics, where family feuds and personal ambitions are readily exploited by rivals, Scindia evidently saw Hirendra as the perfect counter against Digvijaya’s domination over Raghogarh and fielded him against Jaivardhan.

 “Scindia is trying to replicate what happened with him in Guna,” points out a villager. “After his childhood friend KP Yadav trounced him from Guna in 2019 with over one lakh votes, Scindia ji is plotting the same in Raghogarh by fielding Jaivardhan’s confident Hirendra to the poll fray,” he said.   

 It isn’t BJP or his proximity to Scindia that made him a strong candidate, but his direct link to the royal family of Raghogarh makes him a strong challenger to Jaivardhan.

Mool Singh, popularly called Dada Bhai [Big brother], was not only Digvijaya Singh's cousin, a confidant but also one of the credible leaders of the region after Digvijaya Singh. He contested two Assembly elections at the behest of the royal family in 1985 and in 2008 and secured the victory. In 1985, he contested when Digvijaya Singh was elected to Parliament, and in 2008, Laxman Singh was in BJP, Jaivardhan was underage, and Digvijaya Singh was on self-imposed 10-year exile from electoral politics. But in 2013, when Jaivardhan attained an age to contest elections, Mool Singh willingly vacated the seat, citing illness.

Old-timers in Raghogarh recall that in Digvijaya Singh’s absence, it was Mool Singh who addressed the day-to-day concerns of the constituency’s electorate. He showed no personal ambition for political office and was content playing an electoral proxy whenever the situation demanded. In the four elections that Digvijaya Singh won from the Raghogarh seat in 1977, 1980, 1998 and 2003 and also when he made way for his younger brother Laxman Singh in 1990 and 1993, Mool Singh played a key role in ensuring that the poll outcome favoured the Raghogarh family.
Kila verses Kothi 

Unlike his father, Hirendra Singh joined the BJP, keeping political ambitions above everything.

The BJP's long quest for a strong opponent in Raghogarh ended up with him and the party, for the first time in decades, putting a tough campaign on the seat. After Hirendra's induction into the saffron fold, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Jyotiraditya Scindia jointly held a mega rally there over the Ladli Behna Scheme. Scindia, who didn't step in Raghogarh even though it falls under Guna district which he represents, addressed two poll rallies in the past three weeks to drum up support for Hirendra Singh.

Not just Shivraj Chouhan and Scindia, Union Home Minister Amit Shah held a rally in Raghogarh on November 13 invoking the issue of Ram Temple, abrogation of Article 370, G-20 summit, role of PM Modi in commencing Chandrayan, and dynasty politics. "Since 1977, when BJP came into existence, we have never won Raghogarh," says Shah. "Therefore, take a pledge before me to vote for the BJP this time and for Modi again in 2024," he thundered.

A day after Shah's visit, Digvijaya's brother Laxman Singh, who is contesting from the adjacent Chachoura Assembly seat, hit back at Shah during a rally in Raghogarh, and said, "The BJP government gave best MLA awards to Jaivardhan and me and now says don't vote for them. They are funny."

He frowned upon Shah's call to overthrow the Congress in Raghogarh and thus thundered, "I swear to Lord Ram,... we will not stop fighting until we defeat Modi and Shah in 2024 and afterwards. We will campaign in Gujarat as well."  

Like the party, Hirendra Singh’s election campaign in Raghogarh relies largely on two flanks – first, invocation of his father’s legacy and commitment to the development and second, preserving Sanatana Dharma. "Last time I came to seek votes for the Congress, unlike this time for the BJP. Aatm Samman aur Vichardhara ke liye maine Congress chodi," he was heard saying in public rallies. "Vote for the BJP to break the shackles of slavery and prevailing fear in the region," he said.

Taking a cue from the party over Ram Temple, he continued, "Ram Lala was forced to live in a tent under the Congress rule. It's the BJP which gave due respect and paved the way to the temple, which will be inaugurated in January."

Villages after village, he has been visiting, saying that the development came in the region only after BJP came to power in 2003.

The voters of Pipaliya, Sagar and Fazalpur said that Jaivardhan and Hirendra came together in the last election seeking votes in favour of the Congress, unlike this time, putting them in a tight spot. Many, like Bansilal Kaithvas, a voter from Pipaliya, tittle-tattled that the former is calm, composed and down-to-earth while the latter possesses an image of a hooligan.

Jaivardhan Singh, on the other hand, has been on a campaigning trail even on Diwali day, reiterating Congress party promises of farm loan waiver, power bills waiver, monthly stipend of Rs 1,500 to women, stipend to school children, resuming old pension scheme and to throttle the corruption. 

"Every village locality I visit, the people complain about corruption," he said. 

When the reporter questioned why Raghogarh is invisible to BJP, he said, "Because we have decades of family bonding with the electorate, we never turn back the needy and do whatever we can to support them."

Locals concede that Hirendra Singh will not win against Jaivardhan Singh this time but add that he will give a very tough fight in the next because he knows the constituency well, has a strong team and enjoys the support of the locals. More importantly, he is a local candidate and belongs to the royal family, which makes him lethal for the Congress.

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