Holding on to home turf is royal challenge in Gwalior
The electoral might of the erstwhile Gwalior royalty is under severe strain. Non-royals fielded by the Congress are giving former royals a run for their money in two assembly seats.
Yashodhara Raje Scindia is the BJP candidate in Shivpuri and Maya Singh or "Mamiji" (wife of late Vijayaraje Scindia's brother) in Gwalior East. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan fielded the two parliamentarians in the assembly elections to beat strong anti-incumbency against sitting BJP MLAs but the same factor threatens to spoil the erstwhile royal family's near-clean run in electoral politics.
Gwalior MP Scindia had to concede to Chouhan's wish to field her in place of unpopular sitting BJP MLA Makhanlal Rathore. "I didn't have a choice," she tells The Indian Express in Shivpuri. "The chief minister asked me to fight from this seat. He said he really valued my contribution as a minister (of tourism, sports and youth welfare in Chouhan's cabinet before she won the Gwalior Lok Sabha bypoll in 2007). The chief minister said, 'I would really like you to contest from Shivpuri and be part of my cabinet', if the BJP comes to power."
But she declares a plan to quit politics. "I have spent 25 years in politics and these will be my last five years. Let the next generation take over," she says, hastening to clarify it does not mean the entry of her son Akshay in politics. "My son stays in the US. Let's not read any meaning in it. Let's not get into that. He is happy coming down here to help his mother during the elections."
Although she is confident she will win "even if it is by one vote", the tension is obvious at a lawyers' meeting Saturday when she notes how "there have been lots of changes on the ground in a span of seven years" and how she got "14 days only" to cover 204 villages and 1.5 lakh voters.
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