New Delhi: They were once his bitter foes in Madhya Pradesh, but having crossed the political divide, former senior Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia is working overtime to win over top BJP leaders in Indore.
Scindia, whose rebellion brought down the Congress government in the state, has landed up in Indore where his close confidant Tulsi Silawat is contesting the bypoll from the Sanver constituency.
While the dates for the elections are yet to be announced, there is a lot at stake for the Gwalior royal family scion — a fact he seems to understand as he has been working day and night in the constituency.
For one, Silawat, currently a cabinet minister in the Shivraj Singh Chouhan cabinet, is Scindia’s closest aide. He was also the Congress sitting MLA from the constituency before he defected to the BJP along with Scindia, making the bypoll a referendum of sorts on the rebellion.
With much at stake, Scindia has now reached out to his once bitter foes.
Scindia meets BJP bigwigs
On Monday, Scindia reached the home of Kailash Vijayvargiya, the senior BJP leader whose stronghold is Indore. With Vijayvargiya in West Bengal for party work, Scindia had dinner with Vijayvargiya’s wife and son Akash.
He followed that up with a visit to the home of former Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan Tuesday, before meeting BJP’s Ujjain MP Anil Firojia, Indore MP Ashok Lalwani, former minister Paras Jain, cabinet minister Usha Thakur, who is a close aide of Mahajan, and Ramesh Mendola, the Indore BJP leader close to Vijayvargiya and the party incharge of Sanver seat.
“There was a feeling that after he (Scindia) joined the BJP, he had not met many party leaders of this region,” said a senior BJP leader who was involved in planning Scindia’s Indore itinerary.
“In politics, several leaders have egos that need to be satisfied. If you don’t handle their egos, they may start working against the party,” the leader added. “The BJP can’t take this risk at the moment and so it was decided that he will personally visit the homes of top leaders to iron out any differences.”
Former state minister Paras Jain, who Scindia visited Tuesday, said the Rajya Sabha MP’s efforts are having the desired effect. “It was well received by workers as ‘Maharaj’ himself came to our home to seek our support,” he said. “He is a senior leader and his gesture touched every one.”
Govind Malu, senior BJP leader in Indore, however, pointed out that the stakes are high not just for Scindia. “It is not a question of Scindia’s reputation alone but the survival of the Shivraj government rests on the victory of these MLAs,” he said. “So everybody is making efforts to ensure they win. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan himself toured the Indore region while Scindiaji’s visit to seek the blessings of senior leaders has created more warmth.”
The once bitter foes
For all the breaking of the ice now, Scindia has had some historic rivalries in the region, chief among them with Kailash Vijayvargiya.
The two had battled it out for control of the Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association (MPCA), during elections in 2010, when Vijayvargiya was the state PWD minister and the second most powerful man in the then Shivraj Singh Chouhan cabinet.
Scindia was a central minister in the UPA cabinet then and managed to secure the support of former BJP MP Arun Jaitley, eventually defeating Vijayvargiya by 70 votes for the president’s post.
Now, Vijayvargiya’s lieutenants are in charge of a majority of the 24 seats that are set to see bypolls. And it may not be all smooth sailing for the BJP. The recent cabinet expansion has caused more heartburn as Ramesh Mendola, a Vijayvargiya confidant, missed out while Usha Thakur was inducted as the tourism minister.
In the 2018 assembly elections, Mendola had defeated the Mohan Sengar of Congress, another Scindia supporter who is now in the BJP, at Indore. Sengar caused a stir last week when he pasted posters across the city, welcoming Scindia. Photos of Vijayvargiya and Mendola were missing from the posters.
According to sources, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan recently held a virtual meeting to review preparations for the bypolls, which was attended by Scindia and other leaders. “The meeting took stock of some of the constituencies where elections will be held later this year, and he (Chouhan) was unhappy with the work of the social media team. They were asked to improve their presence ahead of the elections,” said another leader.
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