Jyotiraditya Scindia has been a focus of Madhya Pradesh politics since March 2020 when he, along with 22 MLAs supporting him, crossed over to the BJP, leading to the collapse of the Kamal Nath government.
Since then, senior party leaders and the cadre have never been able to really digest his presence, and he has always been seen as a threat to their political careers.
Now, facing an uphill task in the upcoming Madhya Pradesh election, the BJP so far has given tickets to almost 50 percent of the 22 MLAs who had defected with Scindia. From the remaining, some have been denied and some are on hold.
Consequently, it is the BJP versus the BJP in the state assembly elections for which polling will be held on 17 November.
Who All From Scindia's Camp Have Been Awarded Tickets?
In the limelight will again be the state’s Gwalior-Chambal region, which is Scindia’s stronghold.
There are 34 assembly seats in the region. In the 2018 elections, the Congress had won 26 seats, helping it return to power after 15 years.
Scindia's supporters, who managed to get tickets for this election include Pradyumn Singh Tomar, a cabinet minister in Shivraj Singh Chouhan's cabinet, Adal Singh Kansana and Raghuraj Singh Kansana, both Gurjar leaders from Sumawali and Morena respectively in the Chambal region.
Both had lost elections in the by-polls after their defection in 2018.
A hardcore Scindia supporter, Imarti Devi from Dabra has also managed a ticket despite opposition from local BJP leaders. She too had lost the 2018 by-polls.
But Scindia has been so dominating that all of them have been given tickets.
Two of Scindia's staunchest supporters with key portfolios have also gotten tickets. They include Govind Singh Rajput from Surkhi in Sagar district and Tulsi Silawat from Sanwer in Indore.
Rajwardhan Singh Dattigao, also a cabinet minister, will contest from Badnawar.
Scindia's MLAs vs MP BJP's Old Timers
After his entry into the BJP in 2018, Govind Singh Rajput disturbed the political equilibrium of Sagar.
He is being opposed by two powerful ministers of Shivraj cabinet — Bhupendra Singh and Gopal Bhargawa. Many actions initiated by the government in the last few months have also indicated that even Shivraj is not on the right side of Rajput.
Silawat, on the other hand, is facing issues with the local unit of the BJP in Sanwer.
Though the BJP has shifted the original party candidate who would usually contest elections in Sanwer to another reserved seat in Sonkach, Naaraj Bhajpa is watching.
In the neighbouring Dhar district, where Dattigaon is contesting, Bhanwar Singh Shekhawat, the BJP candidate of the 2018 elections, joined the Congress and is all set to challenge the former.
“So, the Scindia supporters will have to fight against the BJP ‘s local unit, Bhanwar Singh Shekhawat and the Congress combined, making the contest interesting”, a senior BJP leader said to me, mildly amused.
The party’s election managers seem to have repeated the Scindia camp's candidates from their respected seats where there was no better alternative available.
In case of better options, at least 11 turncoats have either been denied tickets or their names have been put on hold. They include Girraj Dandotiya who had contested from Dimni in Morena, but has now been dropped since the BJP has fielded Narendra Singh Tomar, union minister of agriculture.
The BJP sprung a surprise by fielding Tomar and six more sitting MPs including two more union ministers — Prahlad Patel and Faggan Singh Kulaste.
Another Scindia supporter who has been denied a ticket is Ranveer Jatav from Gohad. A former police constable, he was given a ticket by the Congress after the murder of his father Makhanlal Jatav (in 2009), also an MLA.
Jatav's family had accused BJP leader Lal Singh Arya of murdering Makhanlal Jatav, and he was also booked in a murder case but was acquitted later. In 2009, the Congress fielded Ranvir and he won the election. But in 2013, he was defeated by Arya. Ranvir won the seat again in 2018 when he defected with Scindia, but was defeated in the by-election by a Congress candidate in 2020.
Now Arya has replaced Jatav in Gohad and the Scindia man is unhappy. "Here, Maharaj Bhajpa is all set to make the election difficult for Arya”, BJP leaders claim.
Scindia’s Coup Gave BJP Another Term, but Also Rattled It
Despite many efforts at unity by the BJP’s central leadership, the rift between Maharaj Bhajpa (the Scindia faction) and Naraaj Bhajpa has widened. There have been occasions when the Scindia–supporting cabinet colleagues of Shivraj Singh Chouhan have admitted in private that they were better off in the Congress party.
Kamalesh Jatav, OPS Bhadoria, Munnalal Goyal, Raksha Sironia, Suresh Dhakad, Brajendra Yadav, Jajpal Singh Jajji, and Brajendra Yadav among others are waiting anxiously for their names to appear in the BJP’s list of contestants.
The Scindia factor in the BJP has also affected the prospects of Yashodhara Raje Scindia, his bua, that is, the sister of Madhavrao Scindia, Jyotiraditya’s father. Though Yashodhara, minister for sports and youth welfare, has cited “health reasons” for not contesting the polls, it is believed that the party had hinted to her that she may not get a ticket. “Like her sister in Rajasthan, Vasundhara Raje Scindia, Yashodhara in MP is also not in the good books of the party leadership”, a senior BJP leader in Bhopal said.
Though Scindia’s coup d'état in 2020 might have given another term for the BJP in MP, it also rattled the party. In the run-up to the assembly elections, the BJP is not only facing huge anti-incumbency in the state but also bitter infighting.
A senior BJP leader made an interesting observation. Scindia continues to be seen as a threat by almost all the BJP leaders in MP including the likes of Shivraj Singh Chouhan, and Narendra Singh Tomar, who like Scindia, considers the Gwalior-Chambal region as his political turf.
In case the BJP wins in MP, there are a number of chief ministerial candidates including Shivraj, Tomar, Kailash Vijaywargiya, and Prahalad Patel. “Only one of them would make it. Or the central leadership would conduct an experiment like they did in Assam, Uttarakhand, or Haryana, where none of the favourites will get the top job. So in MP, can Scindia be the CM,” he asks.
It’s a tangled issue. And there are still a number of kinks to iron out.
(The author is a senior journalist based in Madhya Pradesh. This is an opinion article and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)