Facing a murder charge doesn’t necessarily disqualify a “maharaja” from being campaign material, especially when voters are asked to elect his mother. So Shrimant Maharaj Sa (heb) Vikram Singh Puar, whose coronation as the king of the erstwhile princely state of Dewas took place when he was given anticipatory bail, features in the BJP’s campaign material for the eponymous assembly seat.
The byelection has been necessitated by the death of Tukoji Rao Puar, whose wife Gayatri Devi has been fielded by the BJP. The Congress candidate is Jaiprakash Shastri.
The various honorifics in the party’s campaign material are now a subject of dispute with an activist complaining to the Election Commission that voters are being misled by titles now meaningless in a democracy. “The voters are being emotionally blackmailed. Not all of them understand that these titles are against the Constitution,” the activist, Premdaya Pawar, a former politician, told The Indian Express. “Both Tukoji Rao and Vikram Singh were born after Independence. They are not even entitled to write former maharaja because neither ruled Dewas state when it existed,” she said.
The BJP’s Dewas unit chief, Bahadur Mukati, said there was nothing wrong in the honorifics because “respect for erstwhile kings is part of our culture; it’s in our DNA”. The party will remove the campaign material if the EC objects, he said, “but till then it’s nobody’s business”. He added that such titles are used even for Congress leaders such as Jyotiraditya Scindia and Digvijaya Singh.
Tukoji Rao died at a hospital on June 19. Two days before his death, a court granted 15-day anticipatory bail to Vikram Singh. While seeking bail, his lawyer had argued that he belongs to the royal family and his rajyavarohan (ascension to the throne) and the funeral (his father was then brain dead) would not take place without him. The court gave him 15-day anticipatory bail.
Vikram Singh later applied for extension of anticipatory bail, eventually withdrew the plea and has been absconding since.