It was a journey that was once looked upon with dread. Now, it takes barely half an hour to leave Rajasthan’s Dholpur behind, cross the Chambal River, and speed down to Morena on a highway cutting through the ravines. The dacoits of the region now live on only in OTT platforms and Bollywood.
Just past Morena, a road leads off the highway through the Dimani constituency where Narendra Singh Tomar, the union minister for agriculture, finds himself in the unfamiliar position of having to contest a state legislative election for the first time in 20 years. As the man who presided over the farm laws, he is the most prominent of the seven members of the Lok Sabha, including no less than three union ministers, that the Bharatiya Janata Party has deployed in Madhya Pradesh’s assembly elections.
In his constituency, people joke that he was appointed to screen candidates for the elections in the Chambal region—the electorally crucial northern region of the state below the Chambal River—and ended up finding himself in the fray, like a cricket selector who has to end up playing a T20 match. Tomar supporters favour the idea that he has been picked as a chief ministerial replacement for Shivraj Singh Chouhan, in the eventuality of the BJP forming a government by the many means the party has perfected. But this is a stretch. It may apply to a leader like Prahlad Patel, who hails from an Other Backward Classes community, or a Scheduled Tribes leader like Faggan Singh Kulaste, both of whom are among the seven members of parliament deployed in the state. But the BJP is unlikely to be seen replacing a four-term OBC chief minister with a Thakur like Tomar—particularly at a time when the issue of a national caste census continues to gain prominence.