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Lok Sabha election 2019 Phase 7: Indore, Mandsaur, Ratlam seats likely to pose crucial challenge for BJP and Congress in Madhya Pradesh

Three weeks ago the sitting BJP Member of Parliament of Mandsaur in Madhya Pradesh, Sudhir Gupta visited one of the pockets in his constituency as part of the election campaigning.

The voters told Gupta that he needn’t come again as they would vote for ‘Modi and Kamal’ (Narendra Modi and BJP’s symbol lotus).

 Lok Sabha election 2019 Phase 7: Indore, Mandsaur, Ratlam seats likely to pose crucial challenge for BJP and Congress in Madhya Pradesh

Representational image. Reuters

“The fact is that people of that area were upset with Gupta for not being an active MP. While they were not ready to listen to him, they also wanted Modi to win. It’s the ‘Modi factor’ that will make several MPs including Gupta win,” said Ashish Tomar, a resident of Mandsaur, while narrating the incident to Firstpost.

To a certain extent, Tomar is correct as in several parts of Madhya Pradesh, including Bhopal, where polling took place on 12 May, the voters have openly expressed their choice for Modi at the Centre.

“For that reason, they will vote the BJP candidate to see Modi as prime minister,” said Tomar.

However, of the eight constituencies in the last phase of polling in Madhya Pradesh on 19 May – Indore, Mandsaur and Ratlam will be a litmus test both for the BJP and the Congress.

The eight Lok Sabha constituencies in Malwa-Nimar belt to go on polls are – Dewas, Ujjain, Mandsaur, Ratlam, Dhar, Indore, Khargone and Khandwa. The BJP had won all these seats in 2014.  However, there had been a shift of power from BJP to Congress in many of the Assembly segments in these constituencies after the Assembly election in 2018.

The BJP had won 56 of the 66 seats in the Malwa-Nimar region in 2013 Assembly election, but in 2018, it could win only 21. The Congress won 35.

The victory of Congress in 2018 would act as a booster for the candidates, as the party aims at improving its tally this time. On the other, the challenge before the BJP is to retain its seats.

Indore seat

Indore has traditionally been a BJP seat for the last three decades, with Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan as the MP from 1989.

But this time the party has given the ticket to Shankar Lalwani as Mahajan herself announced through a letter on 5 April that she wouldn’t contest.

“It seems the party is in dilemma and unable to announce a candidate for Indore… I, therefore announce that I won’t contest Lok Sabha election. The party can decide freely,” Mahajan wrote.

Going by the BJP’s policy, eight-term MP, Mahajan (76) had crossed the age limit of 75 years, which made her automatically out of the race. But considering her stature, the central leadership couldn’t tell her directly and this made Mahajan announce it in public rather than facing an awkward situation.

Now besides Mahajan, who’s popularly known as “Tai” in Madhya Pradesh, former chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is backing Lalwani, who’s expected to get support from traders and the Sindhi community, though minuscule in number. Lalwani was earlier chairman of Indore Development Authority and president of Indore Municipal Corporation.

Congress candidate Pankaj Sanghvi had lost the Lok Sabha election in 1998 while contesting against Mahajan. He had also contested the Assembly election and for the post of Indore mayor – but lost both. Now he has the backing of Chief Minister Kamal Nath, who has put three local ministers Tulsi Silawat, Jitu Patwari and Sajjan Verma – all from Indore to ensure victory for Sanghvi.

“Indore is going to be a true litmus test for both BJP and Congress. Both the candidates have never won an election. In fact, Lalwani is contesting his debut election. BJP will get a head start as Indore has been a strong BJP bastion and the candidate has the support of Sumitra Mahajan and Shivraj Singh Chouhan. On the other hand, Sanghvi shall have the advantage of incumbent Congress government in Madhya Pradesh,” senior journalist and political commentator, Abhilash Khandekar told Firstpost.

Mandsaur seat

Though the BJP lost the Assembly election in Madhya Pradesh, it won three of the four assembly seats in Mandsaur district and Congress got one. It was expected that the farmers’ violent agitation in Mandsaur in 2017 would have a cascading effect on the saffron party, but it proved otherwise. Congress’ campaign on farm issues and the death of six farmers in police firing didn’t help the party much.

Mandsaur covers eight assembly segments – Jaora, Malhargarh, Suwarsa, Garoth, Manasa, Neemuch, Jawad and Mandsaur.

Out of eight Assembly seats in this constituency, seven are with the BJP, except Suwarsa, which Congress won.

BJP has fielded its sitting MP Sudhir Gupta and Congress has given a ticket to former MP Meenakshi Natrajan, who had won in 2009 but lost in 2014. Natrajan is considered close confidant of Congress president Rahul Gandhi.

Mandsaur Lok Sabha seat came into existence in 1951 and since then only Laxminarayan Pandey managed to win twice. No other candidate had won more than once.

But internal dissension within the party at a local level may affect Congress’ prospect of winning the seat.

“Sitting BJP MP Sudhir Gupta despite being a simple man, people consider him inefficient. But, in the case of Congress, there’s a lot of dissension in the party at local level. Chances for Meenakshi Natrajan to win seems difficult, as she has humiliated several senior Congress leaders and apparently destroyed the party structure. Despite being an MP, she failed to strengthen the party in her constituency. As she emerged Rahul Gandhi’s trusted lieutenant, party workers complained of her arrogance, which remained unheard,” said Khandekar.

Ratlam seat

Ratlam Lok Sabha constituency (formerly, Jhabua LS constituency) is a Scheduled Tribes reserved seat.  It was renamed as Ratlam in 2008, with eight Assembly segments.

It has been a Congress stronghold from 1957, except in 2014 when Dileep Singh Bhuria won the seat for the first time for the BJP. In fact, he was from Congress and remained party’s MP from 1980 to 1986. Later, he switched over to BJP.

After his death in June 2015, Congress won back the seat in a bye-poll and four-term former MP Kantilal Bhuria again became the MP. He had been a Union minister during the UPA government. Bhuria is considered a strong tribal leader in Madhya Pradesh.

Congress has fielded the sitting MP, Bhuria against BJP’s Guman Singh Damor and the party is hoping to win this seat again.

The other seats

Of the rest five constituencies, Khandwa — from where noted actor of Indian cinema and Dada Saheb Phalke awardee Ashok Kumar and his younger brother, a stalwart playback singer, composer and actor, Kishore Kumar belonged to — is important as Congress has fielded Arun Yadav, a former Union minister, who contested against Shivraj Singh Chouhan from Budhni in the Assembly election 2018, but lost.

Arun, son of former deputy chief minister of Madhya Pradesh Subhash Yadav, who was a heavyweight Congress leader in the cooperative sector, has the advantage of Congress government in the state. His younger brother Sachin Yadav is the agriculture minister in Kamal Nath’s cabinet.

BJP has fielded its sitting five-term MP, Nandkumar Singh Chouhan, who was earlier party’s state president.

Arun Yadav had won this seat in 2009, but lost to Chouhan in 2014.

Khandwa has eight Assembly seats, with 2.5 lakh Muslims out of 10.99 lakh electorate.

It’ll be interesting to see whether Yadav can win back the seat, as Congress has heavily campaigned in this constituency including Rahul’s rally.

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Updated Date: May 17, 2019 21:50:34 IST