Bhopal: As campaigning ends on Thursday for the 19 November by-elections to the Shahdol Lok Sabha and Nepanagar Assembly seats, ruling BJP will face its first litmus test since demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.
Retaining both the ST seats in this by-polls will be crucial for the BJP as if it loses any one of them it will be construed that the decision to scrap high denomination currency has not gone down well with the people, a Congress leader said.
However, a BJP leader exuded confidence of retaining both the seats with a comfortable margin and claimed that the issue of demonetisation will not affect its poll prospects.
"People were facing grave problems with this dictatorial order. Both common man and farmers were forced to stand in long queues. Farmers are not having money to purchase fertilizers and seeds," Madhya Pradesh Congress President Arun Yadav told PTI.
"People are highly annoyed with the decision and I am sure that they will vote against the BJP on the issue," Yadav said.
They are already facing a lot of problems because of lack of development and tall claims of the government that people are getting 24x7 power supply in the state. Now, the decision to demonetise Rs 1000 and Rs 500 notes has added further fuel to the fire, the Congress leader said.
However, BJP leader and Madhya Pradesh State Civil Supplies Corporation Ltd Chairman, Dr Hitesh Bajpai said that demonetisation is not an issue in tribal-dominated areas.
"They are more concerned with issues of getting land lease rights, their staple food is rice and jowar and they are happy with it," he said.
"(Earlier) the party had won the Shahdol seat with a margin of over two lakh votes and I am sure that we will retain it with a difference of more than 1.5 lakh ballots," he said.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and state BJP president Nandkumar Singh Chauhan, former Union Minister Kamal Nath, Jyotiraditya Scindia and state Congress president Arun Yadav have addressed series of public meetings to woo voters and drum up support for their respective parties.
Chouhan has frequented Shahdol to ensure that the BJP retains the seat. He is taking no chances given that the BJP had failed to retain the Ratlam-Jhabua Lok Sabha by-polls in November 2015.
While Congress has fielded Himadri Singh, daughter of former Union Minister Dalbir Singh and ex-MP Rajesh Nandini Singh from Shahdol Lok Sabha seat, the BJP has set up senior Minister in Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan's cabinet and tribal leader Gyan Singh from the reserved seat.
From Nepanagar, Congress reposed faith in tribal leader Antar Singh Barde while BJP has fielded Manju Dadu, daughter of late MLA Rajendra Shyamlal Dadu whose death necessitated the by-poll to cash in on the sympathy vote.
Besides them, a number of other candidates have also filed their nominations for the two by-polls.
After the last date of withdrawal of nominations, a total of 17 candidates are in fray for the Shahdol Lok Sabha and four for the Nepanagar Assembly by-polls, where polling is scheduled on 19 November, an election official said.
Apart from the two main parties in the state, Communist Party of India (Parmeshwar Singh Porte), Lok Janshakti Party (Krishna Pal Singh Pavel), Gondwana Gantantra Party (Hirasingh Markm) and Apna Dal (Sajjan Singh Paraste) among others have also fielded candidates for Shahdol Lok Sabha by-poll.
In Nepanagar, besides Congress and BJP, Republican Party of India (A) (Revanta) and Lok Janshakti Party (Ber Singh) have also fielded candidiates.
Besides, a total of nine persons have filed as Independent candidates in Shahdol.
In Nepanagar, there is no Independent candidate in fray, the official said.
The counting of votes will be done on 22 November, the official said, adding that entire poll process will be completed by 24 November.
While Shahdol bypoll is necessitated due to death of sitting BJP MP Dalpat Singh Paraste, Nepanagar Assembly seat fell vacant due to death of sitting BJP MLA Rajendra Shyamlal Dadu in an accident.
BJP's Paraste wrested the seat from Congress's Rajesh Nandini Singh by a margin of over 2.14 lakh votes in 2014.
The present BJP candidate Gyan Singh had won the seat twice in 1996 and 1998.