The Gwalior royal Jyotiraditya Scindia appears to still have some sway in the Gwalior-Chambal region of Madhya Pradesh, with the latest trends indicating a neck-and-neck competition as both the BJP and Congress lead on 15 seats each.
Leading up to the elections, political analysts had pointed to the Chambal region as a litmus test for Scindia and his diminishing political prominence.
In the 2022 Gwalior municipal elections, the Congress won the mayoral elections for the first time in 58 years, casting doubts over the BJP’s and especially Scindia’s diminishing popularity.
Switch from Congress to BJP
Scindia is the current Union minister of Civil Aviation having observed the Cabinet role since 2021 in the Narendra Modi-led BJP government.
Having been a member of the Indian National Congress for 18 years, he eventually parted ways with the party in 2020, joining the opposition party BJP due to internal disagreements. Sources suggest that his departure was motivated by the desire to be designated either as the chief ministerial candidate or the PCC chief, and when these expectations were not met, he chose to quit.
The decision came after the party's triumph in the 2018 Assembly election when Rahul Gandhi appointed Kamal Nath as the chief minister, a move that proved to be a significant setback for Scindia, who had consistently supported Gandhi.
In 2018, the Congress party won the Assembly elections with a narrow majority of two seats. However, the political landscape shifted when Scindia, along with 22 MLAs, switched allegiance to the BJP, creating a void in the Kamal Nath-led government and ultimately causing its collapse. This departure, coupled with the resignation of three more MLAs and the unfortunate demise of three sitting BJP MLAs, resulted in 28 vacant seats. Subsequently, by-elections were conducted in 2020 to fill these vacancies.
Among the 28 vacant seats, 25 were associated with individuals close to Scindia, and notably, 16 of them were from the Gwalior-Chambal region, a stronghold where Scindia enjoyed considerable popularity.
In the ensuing by-elections, the BJP secured victory in nine out of the 16 seats in the Gwalior-Chambal region and triumphed in a total of 19 seats leading to a Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led government.
2023 Assembly elections
The Gwalior-Chambal region in Madhya Pradesh accounts for 34 of the total 230 seats. In the 2018 Assembly polls, the Congress had won 26 seats while the BJP could only manage
seven, down from its tally of 20 in 2013 polls. In the 2020 by-elections, the BJP won nine out of the 16 in the region.
Scindia, popularly known as “maharaj” by the MP locals is a descendent of an erstwhile royal family in Gwalior. He has been contesting elections from the Guna constituency in Gwalior since 2002 until 2019, succeeding his father Madhavrao Scindia who had never lost an election since 1971.
While this year Scindia himself was not involved in the electoral race, 18 out of his 25 loyalists were in the fray.
While the region had always been dominated by Scindia, political analysts were uncertain about how the BJP was going to perform in the region given the shocking municipal elections in Gwalior, Scindia’s very own turf. Congress had won the elections after 58 years.