New Delhi: BJP leader Jyotiraditya Scindia’s efforts at reaching out to party leaders have hit a hurdle, with a section of the party’s old guard still showing resentment at the induction of the former Congressman and 22 of his supporters.
Scindia has been touring the state as bypolls are due in 24 seats in Madhya Pradesh; all 22 of the former Congress MLAs are in the fray. While the dates are yet to be announced, the stakes are high for the Gwalior scion as any setback will dent his prospects in the BJP.
As such, Scindia has already visited Indore and Gwalior regions over the past month. He has made headway in wooing BJP leaders in Indore, as ThePrint had earlier reported, but it is a whole different story in Gwalior where the party cadre was once opposed to him tooth and nail.
Old ruptures surface in Gwalior
Scindia was in his native Gwalior last week along with Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, who also hails from the region, to win over BJP leaders of the region. Around 16 of the 24 seats fall in Gwalior-Chambal region, where Scindia has massive clout.
But the enormity of the task was revealed on social media. Former MP and a long-time opponent Jaibhan Singh Pawaiya aimed a cryptic tweet at Scindia at the same time the Gwalior scion was in town. Pawaiya is a known Scindia baiter and has fought Parliamentary elections against both — Jyotiraditya and his father Madhavrao Scindia.
“A snake has two tongues and humans have one; fortunately, we are human. In politics, we can change friends and enemies according to time but for me, the issue of principle is relevant even today,” he tweeted.
Pawaiya is a member of the election campaign committee that the BJP has formed to help the 22 candidates but sources in the state unit said much like his tweet, he has hardly campaigned.
Much of the resentment stems from the fact that the BJP old guard has had to cede ground to the 22 Congressmen, putting their political careers in jeopardy.
Pawaiya, for instance, has to now campaign for Pradhuman Singh Tomar, the Scindia loyalist who is the state’s energy minister. Tomar had defeated Pawaiya in the 2018 assembly elections back when the latter was the higher education minister in the then Shivraj Singh Chouhan cabinet. If that wasn’t enough, Tomar had also once called Pawaiya a “make-up minister” due to the latter’s attire always matching his shoes.
With Tomar in the fray from Gwalior Rural, Pawaiya was called for the meeting with Scindia but sources said he only “turned up at the last minute” at Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s insistence.
The chief minister is also taking no chances as the survivability of his government rests on these bypolls. Chouhan and the BJP high command have already managed to persuade known Scindia critics such as Prabhat Jha, Maya Singh and Gauri Shankar Shejwar to campaign for the rebels but pockets of resistance remain.
Scindia loyalists, however, say that they don’t really need the BJP leaders to win but also don’t want to antagonise them.
“In the Indore region, Scindia is dependent on Kailash Vijayvargiya, Sumitra Mahajan and other BJP leaders to ensure the victory of his supporters,” said one Scindia loyalist. “In Gwalior, he has considerable influence to ensure the wins of most of his MLAs but to minimise sabotage, he is reaching out to BJP leaders.
“He is making an extra effort this time although in this region, ‘Maharaj’ does not have to campaign,” the loyalist added. “But he is new in the party and has to show his mettle to win the confidence of the BJP high command.”
The pockets of resistance
Other BJP leaders have also made their feelings clear on the issue. Deepak Joshi, son of Kailash Joshi, the BJP’s first Madhya Pradesh chief minister, is not campaigning for Manoj Choudhary, the Scindia loyalist in the fray at Hatpipliya constituency.
Deepak, a former minister, had lost to Choudhary, then a Congress candidate, in the 2018 assembly elections. He is also a member of the BJP’s election committee.
“Our situation is like that of Kashmiri Pandits, who have been displaced in their own country,” Deepak told ThePrint. “We have been displaced in our own party. A new bride is being welcomed with a lot of energy but in the celebrations, an old bride should not be ignored. I have met the CM and the party president but our concerns have not been resolved. Our pride and future is at stake.
“Many of the former BJP MLAs are feeling ignored,” he added. “The high command has given some assurances but their hearts still have many wounds.”
BJP vice-president Prabhat Jha, however, said, “Most of the workers are working for the party to ensure victory. If a few have any resentment, the party will be in touch with them.”
“Once the bypoll is announced, everyone will work for victory,” he added. “Everybody needs to understand if the BJP government retains power, only then will their grievances be accommodated.”