Bhopal: The upcoming bypoll to Maihar Assembly seat, a part of Satna Lok Sabha constituency in Madhya Pradesh, is not only crucial for opposition Congress but also for BJP following its drubbing in the Bihar state elections.
For Congress, the Maihar bypoll, slated for 13 February, is a prestige issue as it won the seat in 2013 despite BJP getting over two-thirds majority in the state Assembly.
However, Congress suffered a jolt in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections when its Maihar MLA, Narayan Tripathi, switched to BJP.
Political experts say that led to the defeat of Congress candidate and former Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly, Ajay Singh, in the battle for the Satna Lok Sabha seat in 2014.
Now, in order to win Maihar, BJP has fielded Tripathi from the seat. And, leaving no stone unturned to ensure Tripathi's defeat, Congress has given the ticket to Manish Patel to consolidate backward class votes in the Brahmin-dominated seat.
Patel had joined Congress after quitting Bahujan Samaj Party.
"We are going to teach a lesson to party hopper Tripathi this time. BJP has also realised its mistake by taking him into its fold as Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who had earlier announced that he will be in Maihar since the beginning for campaigning, has not yet arrived here," Ajay Singh told PTI from Maihar.
"Now, we have heard that he will be coming only for the last three days of electioneering, which shows that the fight is not easy for them," he said.
However, state BJP president Nandkumar Singh Chauhan exuded confidence about winning the Maihar seat.
"It is not true that the Chief Minister is not campaigning in Maihar. Both I and the CM already campaigned and addressed a large meeting there. I am sure BJP will win the seat," he said.
Asked about claims that people in the area were angry over Tripathi hopping parties, Chauhan quipped, "Now he has come to the right place and will not go anywhere."
Congress got Patel into its fold after he clinched over 40,000 votes in the 2013 Assembly elections while contesting on a BSP ticket, proving his strong presence in the area.
Congress has roped-in actress-politician Nagma for its campaign in Maihar and she held a road show there on 3 February.
Senior Congress leader and former Union Minister Kamal Nath, too, has canvassed for Patel. Party general secretary in-charge of Madhya Pradesh, Mohan Prakash, and state Congress president Arun Yadav, too, are actively campaigning for Patel.
Congress has won the seat eight times since 1957 while Janata Party, an Independent candidate, Janata Dal, Samajwadi Party and BJP have each won once in Maihar.
Tripathi won the seat on a Congress ticket in 2013. He had defeated BJP's Ramesh Prasad by a margin of 6,975 votes. BSP's Manish Patel had come third.
In 2003, Tripathi had won the seat on a Samajwadi Party ticket.
BJP won in Maihar for the first time in 2008 with its candidate Motilal Tiwari getting 34,385 votes.
Meanwhile, BSP has announced former MLA Ram Lakhan Singh Patel as the party's candidate for the Maihar bypoll while Samajwadi Party has nominated Ram Niwas Urmalia.
The counting of votes will be held on 16 February.