Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh): Guna district, the bastion of royals, is set to witness a high-stakes battle between the main rivals BJP and Congress for control over this key political turf in the upcoming state assembly polls.
Guna district has four assembly segments - Raghogarh, Chachoura, Bamori and Guna. Two of them are held by the family members of Congress Rajya Sabha member and former state chief minister Digvijaya Singh and the other two by the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).
Singh belongs to Raghogarh principality, part of the erstwhile Gwalior state.
Union minister and BJP leader Jyotiraditya Scindia, the former parliamentarian from Guna Lok Sabha seat, is the scion of the erstwhile Gwalior royal family.
Guna has been the political battleground for both Singh and Scindia.
In 2002, Jyotiraditya Scindia contested for the first time from Guna Lok Sabha seat after the death of his father and former Union minister Madhavrao Scindia in a plane crash.
Senior journalist Rasheed Kidwai, who authored the book 'House of Scindias: A Saga of Power, Politics and Intrigue', said Digvijaya Singh's Raghogarh principality falls under the erstwhile Gwalior empire.
"Scindias expected Digvijaya to be a loyal subject which he was not. The rivalry intensified when Digvijaya Singh became the chief minister (holding the top post from 1993-2003), while Madhavrao Scindia remained just a factional leader," he claimed.
Raghogarh assembly seat in Guna has been with Digvijaya Singh or his family since 1977, except in 1985 and 2008, when his trusted lieutenant Mool Singh was elected from there.
Digvijaya Singh's 37-year-old son Jaivardhan Singh is currently the MLA from Raghogarh seat. The Congress veteran's younger brother Lakshman Singh is currently the MLA from Chachoura seat in Guna.
Jaivardhan, first elected from this assembly seat in 2013, was also a minister in the cabinet of former CM Kamal Nath during the 15-month-long Congress government after the 2018 polls.
In 1990 and 1993, Lakshman Singh, a five-time parliamentarian (including once from BJP) from the Rajgarh Lok Sabha seat and three-term MLA, also represented Raghogarh in the state assembly. He joined the BJP in 2004 and returned to the Congress in 2013.
Raghogarh and Chachoura assembly seats are part of the Rajgarh Lok Sabha seat, which is currently held by the BJP.
The Guna Lok Sabha seat, which the Scindias have represented since 1957 except four times, consists of three assembly segments from Shivpuri district (Shivpuri, Pichhore and Kolaras), two from Guna district (Bamori and Guna) and three from Ashok Nagar district (Ashok Nagar, Chanderi and Mungawali).
Out of these eight assembly segments, six are currently held by the BJP and two by the Congress.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Jyotiraditya Scindia was defeated by KP Yadav, who contested on the BJP ticket.
"Guna had been loyal to Scindias since the days of Rajmata (Vijayaraje) Scindia (Jyotiraditya Scindia's grandmother and one of the founders of BJP). Therefore, when Jyotiraditya Scindia lost the 2019 Lok Sabha poll, it was a defining moment. It shattered Scindia's self-esteem and self-confidence," Kidwai claimed.
The Jyotiraditya camp blamed Digvijaya Singh and Kamal Nath for his defeat from Guna and attempted to deny him a Rajya Sabha berth when Nath was the chief minister, Kidwai further claimed.
After winning 114 seats in the 230-member House in 2018, the Congress formed government under Kamal Nath with the support of the Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and independent candidates.
The Nath government, however, collapsed after 15 months when a section of Congress MLAs, most of them loyal to Jyotiraditya Scindia, quit and joined the BJP, paving the way for the return of the saffron party in March 2020.
State BJP spokesman Pankaj Chaturvedi told PTI that Jyotiraditya Scindia is not a leader who believes in groupism or internal bickering.
"The politics of Digvijaya Singh has been to promote groupism and internal bickering within his party and he is still doing this in the Congress, as evident from the recent controversy (between Nath and Singh) over tearing clothes. Scindia had to face this type of politics of Singh," Chaturvedi said.
However, Guna district Congress president Meharban Dhakad claimed Scindia left the grand old party because of his "ambitions and greed." "There may be some difference of opinion between Singh and Scindia.
But all officials in the district under the Kamal Nath-led Congress government were the choice of Maharaj (Scindia). The collector and SP were following Scindia's directives only and the Congress workers faced problems at that time," Dhakad further claimed.
Scindia and his supporters got "sold" due to greed, he alleged.
"Scindia was eyeing the chief minister's post. He had nothing to do with the Congress. He was acting as an individual when he was in the Congress," Dhakad claimed.
The Congress leader expressed confidence that his party will win all the assembly seats in the district in the upcoming state polls.
The Guna assembly seat in the district has been held by the BJP since 1993.
In Bamori, Mahendra Singh Sisodia, a close confidante of Scindia, won on the Congress ticket in 2018. He, however, joined the BJP along with Scindia.
In the 2020 by-election in Bamori, Sisodia won on the BJP's ticket and is currently a minister in the state government.
Polling for the 230 assembly seats in MP will be held on November 17 and the counting of votes will take place on December 3.