Represented by Jyotiraditya Scindia since 2002, Guna was one of the two seats in Madhya Pradesh that the Congress retained in the 2014 general elections, though with a much reduced margin.
Taking on the former Union minister this time is the BJP’s K P Yadav, who lost in the recent state elections from Mungaoli, one of the eight Assembly segments that make up the Guna-Shivpuri parliamentary constituency. Before Jyotiraditya, the Guna seat, which goes to polls on May 12, was represented by his father Madhav Rao Scindia and grandmother Vijaya Raje Scindia.
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Yadav, 43, was Jyotiraditya’s aide till January 2018, but fell out with the Congress after he was denied a ticket in the Assembly bypoll for Mungaoli, and joined the BJP. In last year’s Assembly elections, the BJP fielded him from the same constituency but he lost by a narrow margin of around 2,000 votes.
After a long time, the BJP has fielded a local candidate from the seat, with most of Scindia’s previous challengers living outside the Guna. In 2014, Scindia defeated former Bajrang Dal chief Jaibhan Singh Pavaiyya, a resident of Gwalior, and in 2009 Narottam Mishra, a resident of Datia. Yadav is a resident of Rusalla village in Ashoknagar district in Guna.
“The previous candidates were not local but they were MLAs elsewhere. They were eyeing minister’s post in the state government and so did not contest the general election seriously. A win would have taken them away to Delhi,’’ says BJP leader Gajendra Sikarwar, explaining why the party lost Guna despite a Narendra Modi wave. But, he says, “Everybody is putting in their best now.’’
With Scindia being appointed the Congress’s general secretary in charge for western UP, the campaigning in Guna has been largely left to his wife Priyadarshini Raje. When the BJP announced Yadav’s candidature, she took a dig at him saying, “Those who were taking selfies with Maharaj till recently are now going to challenge him.” Raje has been campaigning in the constituency’s remote areas, occasionally even having lunch in fields.
“Maharaj toils to provide you amenities and spends most of his time working for you. Did anyone of you go to Mandsaur? He went to Mandsaur (where during the farmers’ stir five protesters died in firing and one in police custody in June 2017),’’ she tells villagers. In some pockets, she also complains about some voters not backing the ‘Maharaj’ in the last polls.
Her style is similar to her 48-year-old husband’s, who in his interactions with traders, doctors and lawyers earlier was seen publicly complaining about their lack of support to the Congress with thumbs down gestures.
In his campaign speeches, Scindia rarely targets his BJP rival, taking on PM Narendra Modi and former chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. Scindia has been campaigning in the constituency even before his name was officially announced, and the party believes he will sweep the polls this time as well.
The BJP, however, is trying to put up a fight. Chouhan, who campaigned near Kolaras on Monday, said, “The Maharaja has been given responsibility of western UP but he has not been able to leave Guna,” adding, “Not just him, his entire family is campaigning for him. Had he worked for five years he would have been spared the trouble of seeking votes in every lane and bylane,’’ he said.
BJP candidate Yadav too asserted that Scindia is in “trouble”. “He is hatching conspiracies to defeat me. Why else would so many ministers camp in the constituency for several weeks,” he said.
But recent developments seem to be in the Congress’s favour. Recently, K L Agrawal, who was a minister in the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government, openly backed Scindia. After being denied a ticket in last year’s Assembly elections, Agrawal contested as an Independent from Bamori seat and got more than 27,000 votes. Also, the BSP candidate from Guna, Lokendra Singh Rajput, joined the Congress declaring support for Scindia. BSP chief Mayawati accused the Congress government of misusing official machinery to force Rajput to defect.
But the BJP believes that even though Yadav’s name was announced late, the party’s campaign in the Prime Minister’s name since February will ensure a win. “Candidate is not important, the lotus (party symbol) and Modi are,’’ is what local leaders are believed to have told cadres. However, going by the sparse crowd at Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s recent rally for Yadav, that did not help.
So far, no senior Congress leader other than Scindia himself has addressed a rally in the constituency. Raj Babbar is expected to visit the constituency.