Murder and caste divide: Fault lines play out in Chambal electoral arena | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Murder and caste divide: Fault lines play out in Chambal electoral arena

By, Morena/bhind/datia
Nov 09, 2023 06:06 AM IST

Last September, Rajputs and Gurjars in the region clashed over whether Samrat Mihir Bhoj was a Rajput or a Gurjar.

On November 4, just 100m from his new house in Rathaul Ka Pura village in Morena district, the body of Aidal Singh Gurjar was confined to flames under heavy police protection. He was allegedly gunned down a day earlier by upper caste Rajputs over playing of music on a tractor. The ire of the huge crowd that gathered at his cremation was the Rajput community, whose leader and union agriculture minister, Narendra Singh Tomar is the local BJP candidate from the Dimni assembly seat.

Police personnel deployed at Rathaul Ka Pura in Madhya Pradesh’s Morena district. (HT photo) PREMIUM
Police personnel deployed at Rathaul Ka Pura in Madhya Pradesh’s Morena district. (HT photo)

On November 4, just 100m from his new house in Rathaul Ka Pura village in Morena district, the body of Aidal Singh Gurjar was confined to flames under heavy police protection. He was allegedly gunned down a day earlier by upper caste Rajputs over playing of music on a tractor. The ire of the huge crowd that gathered at his cremation was the Rajput community, whose leader and union agriculture minister, Narendra Singh Tomar is the local BJP candidate from the Dimni assembly seat.

The incident has once against brought to fore intense caste rivalry in Chambal-Bhind region of Madhya Pradesh. The house of the man alleged to have committed the crime, Shyamu Tomar was demolished by local officials on Saturday in a move aimed at stemming i caste tension, said a senior district police officer.

“Shyamu Tomar was involved in more than a dozen criminal cases and in many cases, crime was not reported, out of fear. The police did not take action as he belongs to an upper caste,” claimed Rajender Gurjar, an uncle of the victim.

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A senior BJP functionary in Morena said Tomar tried to visit the affected family but had had to call off his visit due to tension in the Gurjar dominated village. “I am sure he will go when the anger is less,” the leader added, asking not to be named.

In September 2022, Rajputs and Gurjars in the region clashed over whether Samrat Mihir Bhoj was a Rajput or a Gurjar after the district administration erected his statue in Gwalior. A group of Rajput leader damaged vehicles and blocked traffic in Gwalior protesting at Mihir Bhoj being projected as a Gurjar icon.

According to local political observers, there are 60,000 Rajput voters in Dimni, 30,000 Brahmin voters, 30,000 Dalit voters, and 49,000 voters from OBC communities including 14,000 Gurjars. “Rajputs are dominant in Dimni like in many constituencies in the region and the tension between communities would mean voting on caste lines,” said Gwalior based political commeontator Keshav Pandey.

Caste killings are not unusual in the Chambal region but this incident, weeks before polling could trouble Tomar in the Rajput dominated constituency. The Congress and Aam Aadmi Party too have fielded Rajput candidates and the Bahujan Samaj Party has fielded former MLA, Balveer Singh Dandotia, a Brahmin.

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At the BSP office in Dimni, Ravi Dandotia said the caste factor could h help the BSP. “Tomar (Rajput) votes will get divided among three Tomar candidates and Brahmins will vote for Dandotia ji. Besides, he will get votes from other castes too as no one is happy with Narendra Singh Tomar who failed to resolve the issues like water and electricity supply and roads and check atrocities on scheduled castes people.”

The seat is currently held by Ravindra Singh Tomar Bhidosa of Congress.

To counter the caste divide, the BJP is projecting Tomar as a potential chief ministerial candidate, the first from the region, and is showcasing development projects implemented by him such as Yamuna Expressway and Chambal Expressway.

Satyendra Singh Tomar from Dimni said, “Tomar ji is like Modi ji to us. Since he has been representing Morena Lok Sabha seat, the district has had development projects such as Chambal Expressway and Yamuna Expressway.” He added that the community wants to see “Tomar as chief minister” .

But development is unlikely to play as significant a role as caste, added Pandey: “Caste conflicts only add to the commitment of voters of particular castes as to whom to vote and whom not to”.

THE BSP FACTOR

The Gwalior-Chambal region supported the Congress in the 2018 polls helping the party win 26 seats out of the 34 in the belt. The party won all the six seats in Morena district. The BJP won six and one each went to the BSP and the Samajwadi Party. The Congress’ vote share in these 34 seats in 2018 was 42.2, the BJP’s 34.5% and the BSP’s, 13.1%.

Morena based journalist Awadhesh Dandotia said: “Then the Congress promised farm loan waiver of 2 lakh and had a prominent leader Jyotiraditya Scindia in the party (he is now with the BJP). This time the Congress does not have such promise, nor a prominent leader. In this scenario, the Congress will have to strive hard to repeat 2018 performance.”

Dandotia also pointed to the anti-Dalit violence of 2018 that helped the Congress. The region has a sizeable number of Dalit voters.

Bhind based political analyst Amarkant Chauhan added: “Scheduled caste voters shifted to Congress in 2018 to teach the ruling party a lesson after five S members of a scheduled caste were killed in April 2018 . Now, it needs to be seen whether they return to the BSP’s fold or stay with the Congress. In several assembly seats, there is a triangular contest due to the BSP. A good performance by the BSP would mean a loss for the Congress.”

Congress candidate Rajendra Bharati from Datia assembly constituency accused the BJP leader and state home minister Narottam Mishra of using his influence to get the BSP to field candidates to help BJP. “A few thousand votes will not mar my prospects given the huge margin of victory expected,” he added.

BJP leader Atul Bhure and the BSP candidate Lokendra Netaji from Datia denied the charge. Both said the Congress candidate’s claim was nothing but a sign of frustration on his part as he had faced defeat four times out of six when fielded.

According to a BJP leader in Morena, the BSP has given tickets to rebel from both Congress and the BJP. In Morena, BJP rebel Rakesh Singh, who is son of former minister and retired IPS officer Rustam Singh is contesting on a BSP ticket. He contested the 2018 polls on a BJP ticket and lost.

In Sumaoli constituency, Kuldeep Sikarwar , a Congress rebel , is contesting on a BSP ticket after he was replaced as Congress candidate by sitting MLA Ajab Singh Kushwah following the latter’s protest at Kamal Nath’s house in Bhopal.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Ranjan Srivastava leads HT’s coverage from Bhopal. He has spent more than two decades in journalism in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, covering political and other affairs. For the past 16 years, he has been working in Madhya Pradesh.

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