Out of the 230 assembly seats in the state, 34 fall in this region. But more importantly, the erstwhile royal family of Gwalior is considered to be an influential factor in the assembly polls
As the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swing into frenzied activity in Madhya Pradesh— scheduled to vote on November 28 — both have their eyes set on the Gwalior-Chambal region of the state.
Out of the 230 assembly seats in the state, 34 fall in this region. But more importantly, the erstwhile royal family of Gwalior is considered to be an influential factor in the polls.
The importance of the region for the BJP can be gauged by some numbers and an incident: for starters, seven ministers in Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s government come from this region. Out of these seven, six are cabinet members and one is a Minister of State (MoS).
In September, Yashodhara Raje Scindia, BJP MLA from Shivpuri and daughter of Vijaya Raje Scindia — queen of the last ruling dynasty in Gwalior — had stormed out of a party meeting after she found that the portrait of her mother was missing from the stage.
The BJP leadership did not waste any time in "correcting" the situation. During party president Amit Shah’s October 9 address in Shivpuri, the senior Raje’s portrait featured prominently along with portraits of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Deendayal Upadhyaya. Speaking from the podium, Shah also pointed out Vijaya Raje’s contribution towards building BJP.
"We are starting country-wide celebrations for Rajmata’s centenary year from October 12," Shah said, adding that the "biggest tribute" to Rajmata will be to win the assembly polls and the Lok Sabha polls in 2019 with a "thumping" majority.
Among the 34 assembly seats in this region, BJP had won 20 during the 2013 elections. The party had managed to better its total in the region from 2008, when it had won 16 seats. The difference in vote percentage between the two parties, however, was just about 1 percent. This is one of the reasons why the party intends to expand its influence by playing the royal family card. Stating that Rajmata "always kept her gentle shadow over Jana Sang", Shah announced that BJP will be launching postage stamps and installing statues in her name.
The party's expansion also comes on the back of its recent losses to Congress in the Kolaras and Mungaoli bypolls.
According to reports, the parties were treating the bypolls as a 'semi-final' before the assembly elections. The BJP deployed the party's rank and file, including Chief Minister Chouhan, to the region while senior Congress leader and Vijaya Raje's grandson, Jyotiraditya Scindia, who considers the region his home turf, campaigned with his eyes on the CM berth.
The battle between the two parties began way back in 1984, when Madhavrao Scindia, the father of Jyotiraditya Scindia, contested against Atal Bihari Vajpayee and trumped him by a margin of 200,000 votes. Interestingly, Madhavrao's father Jivaji Rao Scindia, the Maharaja of Gwalior, had once offered Vajpayee a scholarship, which the latter had accepted though he had declined the Maharaja's condition that he work in his employ for at least three years after graduating.
In the 2013 assembly elections, the battle royale continued with BJP fielding Scindia's aunt Yashodhara from Shivpuri and Maya Singh, whose husband was related to Vijaya Raje, from Gwalior East. Both won from their respective constituencies.
However, while the region has seen the Gwalior clan's members enter the battlefield often, they have never contested against each other.
In recent days, Gwalior-Chambal has also attained importance as the epicenter of the SC/ST protests in Madhya Pradesh. At least five ministers had to put off their visit to the region in September in the wake of widespread demonstrations.Congress President Rahul Gandhi is set to visit the region on October 15-16.