Madhya Pradesh

Congress candidate’s Pragaman Gwalior South APP may become a game-changer in caste-based politics

Why all eyes on Gwalior Dakshin (South)? Praveen Pathak's Innovative Approach and Mohabbat Ki Dukan Philosophy may bring the constituency known for Godse's Temple into Congress' fold

Bhopal: Amongst the 230 Assembly segments in Madhya Pradesh, Gwalior (South) constituency witnessed a different treatment. Not because that the assembly segment enjoys rich historical and cultural landmarks for which Gwalior is known but because the assembly seat is considered to be a bastion of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The fact is that the country’s first BJP Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was born at Kamal Singh Ka Bagh, which falls under this assembly segment. Another fact is that several of the founders of the Bharatiya Jan Sangh, the Ram Rajya Parishad, and the Hindu Mahasabha are from this assembly segment. And in the assembly segment lies a temple in memory of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse in the Daulatganj area. Probably, the only temple that exists in the name of the father of the nation’s assassin. And where many of Godse supporters observe November 15 as “Sacrifice Day”, the day Godse was hanged to death in 1949 after being convicted of killing the father of the nation.

This is perhaps why the Gwalior (South) did not dare to break from the electoral pattern for decades. But not all of this text is agreed where a voter is the seldom king. Congress party snatched the segment from BJP’s two-time legislator Narayan Singh Kushwaha, the then Minister of State for Home Affairs in the Shivraj Singh Chouhan cabinet. In 2018, Congress party’s Praveen Pathak won by a slender margin of nearly 121 votes – the lowest margin in the last Assembly elections. Basically, the voters of Gwalior (South) shifted from the shadow of a political party towards a party that enjoys a completely different ideology.

There is a widespread perception that the caste-based demographic of the constituency offered a clear pathway for an electoral win. Combing through the data suggests that the segment is inhabited by people from different communities including Muslims, Kushwahas, Brahmins and SC ST, with their population being 36,000, 28,000, 24,000 and 54,000 respectively. Muslims were around six per cent, Jatavs 5.18 per cent, Nais 5.17 per cent, Brahmins 5.9 per cent, Vishwakarmas 4.8 per cent, Parihars 4.43 per cent, Pals 4.43 per cent, Yadavs-Khatiks 3.69 per cent, Sonis 3.69 per cent, Sindhis 3.69, Rathores 3.6 per cent, Prajapatis 3.6, Punjabis three per cent, Thakurs 1.48 per cent. The other communities such as Sindhis, Jains, Vaishyas, Marathas, Punjabis and Gurjars make up the rest of the population. The total number of sub castes and groups was 26.

On winning, Pathak began with the advantage of the segment’s electoral pattern, and played the importance of his party’s ideological card to its advantage.

“On becoming a legislator, I increased my meetings with people and community leaders. A series of sports, cultural, religious and other activities were organised to strengthen the voice of unity and friendship among the communities and people”, informed Praveen Pathak.

pragaman gwalior south app congress mp praveen pathak
Praveen Pathak with voter during his campaign | eNewsroom

This followed with Pathak participating in social integration programmes where he reached out to caste influencers, traders, local chambers, businessmen, farmers, women’s self-help groups, and others.

But that was not enough, accepts Pathak by adding that “the Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra and the idea of Mohabbat Ki Dukan gave me a different dimension”.

Thus, in January 2022, an app named Gwalior Dakshin (South) was introduced to encourage people of his constituency to rise above caste and religious lines and participate in strengthening a new relationship with other people of the assembly segment.

In the first strike, the idea of Pragaman Gwalior Dakshin APP was floated among the people, particularly among the young bright minded leaders from different communities, from different backgrounds to join the performance-community-connection based APP. To join the Gwalior Dakshin App, a criteria was set. Each user was asked to introduce a minimum 5 fresh users or maximum 25 families.

In July 2022, both performance-community-connection APP and leadership of Pathak got tested during the municipal polls held across the state. While Pathak devoted time to show the party’s united face to the voters, the performance -people-connection based APP set the score to select a likeable preferred candidate for the 20 wards of the Gwalior Municipal Corporation.

Every ticket aspirant was asked to make his support base to join the APP with voter specifications, said a ticket aspirant. The efforts began to bear fruit with one hundred and five aspirants in twenty municipal seats who had finished first, second, third, or fourth in the previous civic polls dropped the idea to contest in the elections. As a result, for the first time in 50 years, Gwalior saw the Congress snatching a mayoral seat from the BJP/Jan Sangh.

As a result, 1251 users expanded the Mohabbat Ki Dukan philosophy that made 92350 people of the Gwalior Dakshi to remain connected 24X7.

This time again, the contest is between Kushwaha and Pathak in Gwalior (South) in the same interesting caste-based demography. Kushwaha in his campaign played up the schemes announced by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, highlighted welfarist policies of Narendra Modi government and underlined Prime Minister’s popularity.

During the campaign, Pathak’s arsenal included a padyatra with door to door visit, promising to deliver free educational stationery to low-income children, modernizing schools in the region, honoring local heroes, improving health facilities, and creating job opportunities.

“Much of the promises were based on the suggestions that arrived from the users of the App,” said Abhay Singh, a voter from Ward no. 37.

Finally, on November 17, the day of voting, the app was able to virtually map every voter in the segment. And Pathak, through Pragaman, was able to see and clock in real-time how his support base of nearly 1,06,000 voters of the total number of voters 2,48,400 were at their polling stations by afternoon.

Political analysts think that any candidate getting over 93,000 votes would be a sure winner.

“Since 2003, the seat is considered to be a bellwether seat – a constituency that acts as a trend indicator of the entire geographical location or mirrors the results in that region. In 2018, the seat went to the Congress with the help of Mahesh Shivhare,” a senior journalist said. Kamal Nath-led government was formed after a gap of 15 years, he added. Unsurprisingly, the Nath government fell after 15-months due to a political proposition allowing Shivraj Singh Chouhan to head the State.

Whatever may be the outcome, the voters of Gwalior (South) segment where concerted attempts are being made to resurrect Gandhi’s killer Godse will have learned a lot from an intense contest on a new medium.

Anup Dutta

is a multimedia freelance journalist based in Bhopal. He reports on people, politics, policies, health, art and culture.

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