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Not BJP or Congress, only the palace wins in Gwalior

April 30, 2009

A Ganesh Nadar reports from Gwalior, where mercury levels are rising, and finds that voters are indifferent to political parties, but emotional about their royal family.

The Lok Sabha election in Gwalior is witnessing voter fatigue that is not evident in the rest of the state.

This is the third election in the city in 18 months. Its voters went to the hustings last November to elect their members of the state assembly; they voted in the Lok Sabha by-election the year before.

The Congress won this seat in the 2004 parliamentary election by a little more than 30,000 votes, but the winning candidate Ram Sevak Singh lost his seat on corruption charges. In the subsequent by-election, the Bharatiya Janata Party fielded its star candidate, then state tourism minister, Yashodhara Raje against Congress nominee Ashok Singh. Despite being their beloved Rajmata Vijaya Raje Scindia's daughter, Yashodhara Raje won by only 34,000 votes.

The Congress has once again pitted Ashok Singh against Raje. The Bahujan Samaj Party has also fielded a candidate, but he has almost no presence in the electoral arena. Like the rest of the state, Gwalior too has no political flags, banners or wall scribblings. The campaign is being carried out through massive billboards and on FM radio.

Many local residents declare they are tired of elections and will not venture out to vote in the sweltering heat. "You cannot have three elections within the span of a year and expect us to vote in each of them," they say.

One voter explains, "The BJP will win only if the people do not see Ranisahiba (as Yashodhara Raje is known) as merely a candidate. The people have to be reminded that she is their queen and that's the only way the party will win. Both the Congress and BJP are equal here; it is the palace that wins."

He is talking about the Jai Mahal palace, seat of the Scindia dynasty, which ruled Gwalior since the late 18th century.

Image: The Padao police station in Gwalior was built in 1893. Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar.

Also see: Is this our most beautiful MP? | India Votes 2009