By Utpal Borpujari in Shivpuri / Ranod (MP)
It’s 8:30 am, and Bombay Kothi, a biggish bungalow set amidst a huge campus called “Chhatri” in the district headquarter town of Shivpuri, is coming alive. Already, a number of people have arrived, waiting for the clock to strike 9:30 am, when they will get to meet the man of the house. All of them are Congress workers and supporters, but more than that, they swear by the “Mahal” (palace) in Gwalior.
On the dot at 9:30 am, the man emerges, looking dew-drop fresh, dressed in a Blue kurta and white churidar, and his “subjects” gather around him, reverentially bowing their heads and prefixing anything they say with the ubiquitous word “Maharaj”. In return, the “Maharaj” requests them to vote for him.
Meet Jyotiraditya Scindia, the scion of the Gwalior royal family, on the campaign trail, seeking to retain the Guna Parliamentary seat that he had won first time in the by-election following his father Madhavrao Scindia’s untimely death in 2001 and retained in 2004.
The previous night, he had slept at 3 am after daylong campaigning followed by strategy meetings till late at night, but now there is no sign of all that hard day’s work in the man’s countenance.
After a brief interaction with his supporters, he jumps into the front seat of his black SUV, driven by a middle-aged uniformed driver who is an employee of the Gwalior royal family. Deccan Herald joins him in his vehicle as it speeds out of the campus.
A minute’s stop in Shivpuri town to meet a party worker who had suffered a heart attack, on the way people reverentially bowing to their “Maharaj”, we are out of the town, taking the Agra-Mumbai highway for a public meeting at a hamlet called Ranod, some 70 km away in the interiors of the constituency.
On the way, he stops whenever he sees bunch of supporters, asking them to vote on the D-day on April 30, with the rider that it was a question of their prestige that the margin of victory this time should be higher than this time.
One particularly important stop it seems is Shahjai, off the highway on way to Ranod. It is a Dalit colony, and Scindia gets out of his vehicle to address the crowd of about 100 people from a makeshift stage.
Scindia’s main rival, BJP’s Narottam Mishra, has reportedly kept a low profile, almost consigned to his fate, as the saying goes in Gwalior and Guna that it is the “Mahal” that always wins, and it does not matter which party it represents.
On the way, he talks of the Rs 2,000 crore he got the constituency in the last five years for various developmental work, points out to the roads in the interiors that he got built with the help of the Central Road Fund and recalls the ties his father the late Madhavrao used to have with the people in the region.
“I am just carrying forward the legacy of my father’s developmental and pro-people work, and if I am able to fulfil even 15 per cent of what he had achieved, it will be a great deal done,” he says. No wonder, at every public meeting, including the one at Ranod, he refers how his “Pujya Pitaji” (revered father) was a man of the masses.
Scindia has also been telling the crowds in election meetings that “Iss Pariwar Ka Mukhiya Main Hoon” (I am the head of this family), which political interpreters are reading as a missive aimed at his aunt Yashodhara Raje who is contesting from Gwalior on a BJP ticket.
But ask him about that, and he diverts the topic saying, “Very candidly, today the legacy is all about the work done by my father towards development and progress in the region, and it is my duty to take that legacy forward.”
Scindia moves on towards another meeting in a series that will end at Bichor, near the UP border, his last for the day. Tomorrow will be another day of campaigning, and this “Maharaj” seems to be game for it.