“Aisa hai Modi ki wave thhi, sabne phool mein thhok diya (there was a Modi wave, all pressed the BJP symbol),’’ says Rajendra Prasad Bhargava, rubbing a pinch of tobacco in his hands as he tries to explain the defeat of Jyotiraditya Scindia from Guna, the family pocket borough represented by the Congress leader, his father Madhavrao, and grandmother Vijayaraje in the Lok Sabha for 14 times.
“Scindia is not corrupt. Whatever money he gets he spends on development. God knows what led to his defeat,” says the 55-year-old priest of a local temple, suddenly sounding ambivalent. “People voted for him thinking they were electing a chief minister but that did not happen,’’ he says about the assumption by Congress voters in this part of the state just as people in Chhindwara were sure that Kamal Nath would land the post after the Assembly polls.
“Maybe the times have changed,” says Bhargava, who lives on Haat Road, adding that he is “BJP-minded” but votes for Scindia when it comes to Lok Sabha polls.
Across the road, retired government doctor B K Chaturvedi has a different take. “Besides those who used to vote for BJP, even those who never did have changed sides this time,” says the octogenarian, accusing Scindia of being inaccessible and doing little for the constituency.
Both live close to the local BJP office, located on the first floor of a small building. No one has turned up at the Congress’s upscale, two-storey office for the last few days, unlike the BJP office that has seen significant footfall.
In a way, the party offices are a reflection of the stature of BJP candidate K P Yadav and the famous rival he vanquished by a margin of 1,25,549 votes. Yadav used to be Scindia’s representative in the district panchayat till early 2018. He was certain that he would get a ticket for an Assembly bypoll last year. When that did not happen, he switched loyalty to the then ruling BJP, which fielded him from Kolaras Assembly seat, part of Guna Parliamentary constituency. He lost by a margin of 2,139 votes.
When the BJP announced Yadav’s candidature, Scindia’s wife Priyardarshini dismissed the competition, describing him as someone who used to take selfies with Maharaj. She was the principal campaigner for her husband, hitting the road for days in his absence while he attended to western Uttar Pradesh too as in-charge of the Congress. If some people are to be believed, the selfie comment saw Yadav work harder. The results showed that Yadav polled more votes than the former Union minister in seven of eight Assembly segments, including the constituency from where he lost five months ago.
“For the first time, we fought to win the elections,” claims Guna BJP president Gajendra Sikarwar, adding that the two senior BJP leaders fielded against Scindia in 2009 and 2014 were not keen on winning because they wanted to become ministers in the state government. Even before tickets were finalised, the BJP and all organisations allied to the RSS got active in the region, identifying beneficiaries of Central government schemes. “The beneficiaries voted for Modi and the rest voted for him because they wanted the benefits.”
“There was a Modi tsunami but it was spread by workers,” says another BJP leader, Ashok Sharma, admitting that “the only factor that led to Scindia’s defeat was Narendra Modi”. “For us the candidate was Modi, not so much Yadav,” says BJP office manager Rohit Bhargava.
“It’s beyond comprehension why he lost. Maharaj and Maharani knocked on every door and worked hard but in the end Modi, Pulwama and nationalism did us in. Congress won the Assembly polls because he was projected as the chief minister,” says Congress leader Ravindra Raghuvanshi.
A Bhopal-based Congress leader says that Scindia’s campaign was managed by people, at least two of them ministers, who were brought from outside and made to campaign. The local cadres had to report to them.