It’s only noon, but local residents warn of safety concerns due to recent violence in Dimani, a constituency in Madhya Pradesh’s Morena district, part of the Gwalior-Chambal region. “You should not roam here for long. Leave as soon as you can as the tensions might increase here,” says Lakhan Singh Nishad, a commercial driver.
Amid heavy electioneering in Dimani, where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has fielded Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, the violence on the night of November 3 has stirred up tensions. What started as a dispute between two friends over playing loud music on a tractor ended with gunfire, with Aidal Singh Gurjar allegedly killed by some men from the influential Tomar community. Following protests and demands for action by the deceased’s family and villagers, the administration bulldozed the houses of the accused on November 4.
Dimani police Station House Officer Udaybhan Singh Yadav said that one of the accused has been arrested, while eight others are on the run. “We have deployed security in the victim’s village,” he said.
National leaders return home
Madhya Pradesh is going to the polls for its 230 Assembly seats on November 17. Dimani has emerged as one of the hotspots after the BJP decided to field Mr. Tomar, the sitting Morena MP, from here. According to BJP insiders, the party decided to field Mr. Tomar, along with two other Union Ministers, four MPs and one national general secretary, in order to use these national leaders’ influence in their respective home regions in the polls and to reenergise the party cadre who are loyal to them.
The BJP won two only seats in the Morena district in the 2018 Assembly elections, with the Congress bagging four, including Dimani. Out of 34 seats in the Gwalior-Chambal region, the BJP could only manage to win seven seats as opposed to 26 for the Congress.
‘Lack of connect’
Local residents in Dimani are excited about a Union Cabinet Minister contesting from the seat, but admit that the election “is not going to be easy” for Mr. Tomar; they allege a “lack of connect” from his side.
Sanjay Sakwar, a farmer from Kachnodha village in Dimani, says, “What has he done for the area? We are struggling even for the basic facilities here. He has never visited our village after elections.” He points to an electricity transformer in his locality and claims that it has been dysfunctional for nearly four years. “We have been managing by connecting cables to a nearby electric pole for a long time,” he says.
His neighbour Kalyan Singh Tomar, also a farmer, echoes Mr. Sakwar’s anger for the BJP leader as well as the State government, highlighting the problem of stray cattle in villages across the area. “During the [Congress’ 15-month-long] Kamal Nath government, he had opened gaushalas and the cattle had been moved there. Now, they just roam around the villages, destroy crops and even attack people. There are more than 100 full-grown bulls in just our village,” he says.
A shop owner in Morena town who sells gajaks (a sweet snack) and originally hails from Dimani explains, “Nobody from Narendra ji’s family was ever visible in the area for years, but this time his son and even Narendra ji’s wife are going door-to-door. You can imagine the situation yourself.”
In Kachnodha, the lane where the murder accused lives bears a deserted look, with only women and children inside the houses. Mr. Kalyan Singh Tomar, who lives near the house of the murder accused, prefers to remain quiet about the incident. “Nobody will talk about it here but the matter remains tense,” he says.
In the victim’s village of Rathol Ka Pura, relatives and neighbours are gathered outside his house to sympathise with the family and demand the arrest of all the accused. “If the police arrests them and takes appropriate action, everything will remain normal in the area,” says Jaswant Singh Gurjar, the brother of the deceased. He insists that he does not want the matter to get politicised or for the incident to trigger enmity between the two communities.
A local journalist who also hails from the Tomar community says that the matter has already been politicised, with the Gurjar votes likely to be consolidated in favour of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidate and former MLA Balveer Singh Dandotita, even as Mr. Narendra Singh Tomar is likely to face anger from the Tomar community after the bulldozing of the accused’s house.
In Dimani town, Yogesh Singh Tomar has a different view, vowing that the Tomar community will ensure a win for the Union Minister. “He is such a big leader. It’s not good if he loses from his turf,” he says. “Narendra ji has done a lot for the area including building this road, a dam nearby and all. Now, Narendra ji won’t come and build my house,” he says.
A recent viral video, allegedly showing his son Devendra Pratap Singh Tomar discussing a transaction worth hundreds of crores of rupees has added to the Union Minister’s worries. The Congress has demanded a probe into the matter. Mr. Devendra Tomar the video is “fake and doctored”, and has filed a police complaint.