Gwalior: As Congress closes gap, BJP may shift Union minister out

In the 2013 Assembly polls too, the Congress had given the BJP a tough fight from the segments falling under the Gwalior Lok Sabha seat — winning three to the BJP’s five.

AS THE RSS held its annual Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha (ABPS) meeting recently in Saraswati Shishu Mandir on the outskirts of Gwalior, the swayamsevaks had on their mind one seat: Gwalior.

While the Congress won the recent Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, the BJP had suffered only a narrow defeat and won a larger number of votes. However, this satisfaction, particularly after 15 years in power, had been tinged by the results in the Gwalior parliamentary seat, where the BJP won only one Assembly segment (Gwalior Rural) with the Congress taking the remaining seven. The BJP had lost the urban Assembly segments despite winning mayoral elections in Gwalior since 1983.

Even in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Gwalior had proved tough for the BJP. The party’s sitting MP, later inducted into the Union Cabinet, Narendra Singh Tomar, won against the Congress’s Ashok Singh by around 30,000 votes — among the lower victory margins in the Modi wave election in the state, where the BJP had won 27 of the 29 Lok Sabha seats. Click for more election news

In the 2013 Assembly polls too, the Congress had given the BJP a tough fight from the segments falling under the Gwalior Lok Sabha seat — winning three to the BJP’s five.

In terms of social demography, a majority of Gwalior’s population comprises OBCs, followed by Thakurs and Brahmins in almost equal numbers. There are also Jatav Dalits in areas close to Uttar Pradesh. Since the general elections in 1957, the Congress has won from Gwalior six times, and the BJP thrice. Earlier, in the first general elections in 1951-52, the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha had won from Gwalior. The seat has also been won twice by the Jan Sangh, in 1967 and 1971, the latter with former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee as its candidate.

In the 2014 elections, Tomar, a Thakur, had got 44.68 per cent of the total votes, while the Congress’s Ashok Singh, an OBC, had got 41.68 per cent.

Within the BJP, there is talk that the party may shift Tomar to either Morena or Bhopal, to minimise the risk of him losing. Tomar has been elected from Morena once, defeating the Congress in 2009 by a margin of over one lakh votes.

BJP Gwalior president Devesh Sharma told The Indian Express, “At a press conference recently, Narendra Singhji (Tomar) said he would follow the decision of the party and contest from wherever he is fielded.”

However, Sharma played down the SC/ST factor, saying that while the anger over the Supreme Court diluting its provisions had been an issue earlier, the situation had changed in the past few weeks. The Modi government had later amended the law to bring back the provisions. Sharma said, “Narendra Modiji’s biggest positive is that nobody has any resentment against him and the development schemes he has launched.”

The “nationalism” sentiment after the Pulwama attack would also play a role, Sharma added. “People are with those who speak in favour of nationalism and in national interest.”

However, voters like veterinarian Mahesh Sharma said the BJP has not had a connect with the people of Gwalior for some time. “In small cities like Gwalior where the lack of development is an issue, people vote considering the influence of the candidate and how available he or she is to address their problems… In terms of infrastructure, you can see Indore has grown better than Gwalior.”

Congress Gwalior president Devendra Sharma said the party is optimistic after having won all the urban segments under the Gwalior seat in the Assembly elections. He added that one of the names doing the rounds for candidate is of party general secretary Jyotiraditya Scindia, the current MP from Guna. Scindia’s father, the late Madhavrao Scindia, was a nine-term MP, who had been elected four times from Gwalior.

“If Jyotiraditya Scindia contests from Gwalior, his presence would have an impact in nearby constituencies as well, including those bordering UP,” Devendra Sharma said. The Congress recently appointed Scindia as in-charge of western UP.

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