"Moye Dadi Indira ji ne Rani Lakshmi Bai ki kahani khoob sunayi hati, Moye Bachpan mein tumhare kshetra ki veerta aur sahas ki kahaani pato hai".
(I am very happy to have come to the Gwalior-Chambal region… my grandmother told me a lot about Rani Lakshmi Bai, she had told me a lot about the bravery of the people of this region)
This is what Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi said during her rally in Gwalior on 21 July, emulating the local Braj tonality of the Gwalior-Chambal region in Madhya Pradesh.
This rally by Gandhi was significant as it took place on the turf of former Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia, who had defected to the BJP in 2020, bringing down the Congress government in the state.
Saying that she doesn't want to bring in Scindia, Gandhi said, "I can speak against Scindia ji and point out how he changed his ideology suddenly. But I don't want to divert you from the key issues that matter to you, such as price rise".
However, analysts say that her invocation of Rani Lakshmi Bai was an even more direct attack on Scindia.
The Scindia family has long faced allegations that they hadn't supported Rani Lakshmi Bai and others who fought against the British during the Revolt of 1857. In the context of the revolt, the Scindia family are often labelled as 'traitors'.
"This was the first instance in which a Gandhi family member has directly spoken about disloyalty and how Scindia switched sides. Priyanka's reference to Rani Lakshmi Bai will add fuel to the old debate about the Scindia family's role during the revolt. Such narratives may help strengthen Congress' hold in the area.A senior journalist in the Gwalior-Chambal region
Political analysts suggest that this move is aimed at countering BJP and Scindia's influence in the Gwalior-Chambal region. The Congress had swept this region in the 2018 Assembly elections, winning 26 out of 34 seats. However many of these MLAs shifted to the BJP along with Scindia.
Addressing the rally in Gwalior, Priyanka Gandhi attacked the ruling BJP government and alleged that it was a government that was purchased.
"The basis of this government is wrong, it's bad. This is the government that was purchased… hence they are working like one"Priyanka Gandhi.
Priyanka Gandhi Targets BJP Government on Corruption and Unemployment
As the MP assembly elections inch closer, Congress' is keeping its focus on alleged corruption, unemployment and unfulfilled promises.
"Parents spend a lot on their children, on their tuition fees. But what happened in the Patwari recruitment scam? It is a matter of shame that only three government jobs have been given in the last three years," she said.
"They (BJP) have been in the government for 18 years. None of the promises that they made to the youth and women in the state have been fulfilled," she added.
Madhya Pradesh Congress chief and former MP chief minister Kamal Nath also accused the ruling BJP government of corruption.
"The BJP government has told lies to farmers, mothers and sisters, to tribals, to Dalits and even to the cows. Shivraj Chouhan has built a mountain of lies in 18 years and a machine of lies and scams," he said, citing the examples of the alleged Mahakal and Patwari recruitment scams.
In response to Priyanka Gandhi's rally in Gwalior, state BJP President VD Sharma said that her outrage is 'selective'.
Did Scindia's Entry Harm BJP in the Long Run?
Apart from the evident anti-incumbency sentiment due to BJP's 18-year rule, the party is grappling with internal challenges like factionalism and a tussle between old-timers and newly-inducted members who came with Scindia.
Some are even asking whether bringing in these leaders from the Congress may have done more harm than good.
Despite the shift of Scindia and his loyalists, the Congress doesn't seem to have lost much ground support in the area.
The presence of a large number of defectors has also created confusion over ticket distribution, on whether exports from Congress will be given preference or will the party stick with its loyalists. The prospect of defectors being rewarded has had a negative effect on the morale of party loyalists.
This confusion exists not just at the candidate level but the ground level as well, with former Congress leaders not quite getting the support of local BJP cadres.
There are also fears of rebellion after the tickets are decided.