Madhya Pradesh polls: Political turncoats pose challenge for BJP and Congress in key seats like Bhopal and Gwalior
There are some constituencies which are key to the election outcome of the state or which are in news due to star candidates or campaigners.
As Madhya Pradesh is all set to get a new Assembly, exit polls have predicted a close contest between BJP and Congress. The stakes are high for all contenders as BJP seeks to maintain its winning streak for the fourth consecutive term, while Congress seeks to make a comeback after a long gap. For the smaller regional parties of the Hindi heartland, and Independents, it is the quest to prove their relevance in face of dueling political giants.
However, for the common man, purely interested in the outcome of the exhaustive polling exercise, there are some constituencies which are key to the election outcome of the state or which are in news due to star candidates or campaigners.
Budhni, for instance, is a constant headline grabber as it is the constituency from which Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has been contesting from since 2006 and winning consistently giving BJP and his government the stronghold in power. Likewise, we curated a list of such interesting electoral hotbeds in the poll-bound state.
This region has been a BJP bastion, with the saffron party sweeping four out of six seats in the Gwalior district alone in last election. These included Gwalior Rural, Gwalior, Gwalior East and Gwalior South constituencies. On the other hand, Congress had managed to keep Bhitarwar and Dabra (reserved) seats from the saffron party. However, even BSP is trying to wrestle around its way in Dabra, a seat it had won in the 2008 elections.
Meanwhile, BJP’s trouble in the region do not end at battling anti-incumbency alone, as the party is struggling to maintain the caste equilibrium here. The party believes that its caste calculations will dent Congress' influence, which is primarily based on the popularity of the Scindia royal family (currently represented by scion Jyotiraditya Scindia)
The ruling party has therefore roped in Union minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Narottam Mishra and Lal Singh Arya, among others, to manage the election campaign and booth level networking in the region. Tomar belongs to the Rajput community, while Narottam Mishra is from the Brahmin community and Arya from the SC/ST community.
The region, also saw major caste violence during the 2 April bharat bandh and recently Congress president Rahul Gandhi raised the issue of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula’s suicide in one of his rallies here.
In a bizarre but unfortunate incident, former district general secretary of Congress in Gwalior, Prem Singh Kushwaha consumed poison after he was denied ticket by the party. He was admitted to the hospital in a critical condition, but was later discharged. Kushwah was demanding a ticket from Gwalior East or Gwalior South seats but his name did not figure in the candidates’ list. He then accused the party of offering tickets to outsiders and took the extreme step.
This region had seen bypolls as recently as on 24 February, in which the Congress managed to retain both Mungaoli and Kolaras Assembly seats.
In Kolaras (which falls in the Shivpuri district), Congress candidate Mahendra Singh Yadav defeated BJP's Devendra Jain by 8,086 votes whereas in 2013, the Congress had won this seat by a margin of 24,953 votes.
On the other hand, in Mungaoli (in the Ashok Nagar district), Congress nominee Brajendra Singh Yadav emerged victorious by defeating his BJP rival Bai Sahab Yadav by 2,124 votes. The Congress had won this seat by a margin of 20,765 votes in the 2013 Assembly polls.
The bypolls were necessitated by the death of Congress MLAs Mahendra Singh Kalukheda (Mungaoli) and Ram Singh Yadav (Kolaras) and thus the Congress in a tactful move fielded Yadav’s son Mahendra Singh Yadav from his constituency. Both the Congress candidates were farmers and Scindia loyalists.
Meanwhile, the BJP had fielded Baisahab, wife of former MLA Deshraj Singh Yadav who is also the cousin of Brijendra Singh Yadav.
According to The Times of India’s report, there are 35,000 Scheduled Caste votes, 20,000 Lodhi and 18,000 Dangi votes in the region. And in case of a neck-and-neck race, other castes will also play an important role — like the Kataria community, which holds 15,000 votes. Apart from them, the Gurjars, the Kushwahs and the Brahmins together make up for 10,000 votes and the Jains and the Muslims have 7,000 votes each.
BJP here had faced the ire of the Bhopal gas tragedy victims before the bypolls as the survivors of the tragedy claimed that were detained unlawfully for rallying against the ruling party. As many as five organisations run by Bhopal gas tragedy victims had come out in protest against the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government over its failure to fulfil the promises made to them.
The Congress party has forged an alliance with the Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD) as a part of the proposed grand alliance before the general elections due in 2019. In Jatara, Congress left the seat for the LJD as it announced only 229 names in its list of candidates for Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections 2018.
The Opposition has given ticket to Dr Vikram Choudhry who is a PhD in sociology and has worked as a spokesperson of the Congress earlier. However, sitting Congress MLA Dinesh Ahirwar, who filed his nomination as an Independent and BJP’s Harishankar Khatik are also giving a tough fight in this constituency.
Jatara, a small backward town in Tikamgarh district of the Bundelkhand region, which is dominated by Scheduled Caste and Yadav communities and borders Uttar Pradesh.
In an interesting turn of events, Congress has fielded Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s brother-in-law Sanjay Singh Masani from the Waraseoni constituency.
Masani, brother of Chouhan’s wife Sadhna Singh, had sought a BJP ticket from Waraseoni in the Balaghat district but changed his affiliation after the ruling party chose to re-nominate MLA Yogendra Nirmal.
However, there isn’t a consensus within the party over Masani’s nomination as he had often been the Opposition’s target on the Assembly floor for getting undue benefits and landing government contracts for his infrastructure firm in a blatant violation of rules.
In Jabalpur, the BJP has retained all five of its candidates in the five (out of eight) Assembly constituencies in the district. The party has fielded Anchal Sonkar in Jabalpur East-97, Ashok Rohani in Jabalpur Cantt-99, Nandini Maravi in Sihora-102, Pratibha Singh in Bargi-96 and Sushil Tiwari in Panagar-101 Assembly constituency.
However, the party was left red-faced when a worker named Avtar Singh attempted self-immolation outside the party office in the Jabalpur district last week. Singh was expressing his anger against being denied a ticket to fight from the Jabalpur West seat and was sour about the fact that the opportunity had been given to one Harendra Jeet Singh aka 'Babbu'.
Congress has fielded former BJP leader Sartaj Singh from this constituency. Singh, an ex-Union minister, had defeated Congress stalwart Arjun Singh in the 1998 Lok Sabha elections. Singh was also the deputy chief of the Madhya Pradesh BJP unit from 1991 to 1994 and therefore his candidature on a Congress ticket has surely stiffened the competition for the ruling party.
In yet another interesting battle, Shivraj Singh Chouhan is up against former Union minister and former Madhya Pradesh Congress chief Arun Yadav.
As is evident from his name, the Congress candidate belongs to the Yadav community whereas Chouhan is from the Kirar community. And even though the share of Yadav votes is about twice that of the Kirar community in Budhni, Chouhan has managed to hold fort here.
But Congress’ Yadav, who also happens to be the son of former deputy chief minister of Madhya Pradesh - Subhash Yadav, has been highly vocal against Chouhan over the Vyapam scam, especially after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections which brought BJP in power at the centre.
Yadav is recognised as a popular ‘farmers’ leader’, whereas, after the Mandsaur farmers’ killing incident in 2017, there is a resentment against Chouhan among the agrarian community of the state. Yadav had asked Chouhan to explain the suicides of 30,000 farmers in the state and claimed that Sehore, the latter's home district, had witnessed the highest number of such suicides.
Therefore, the nomination of Yadav by the Congress is being seen as a direct challenge by the party to the chief minister – reminiscent of how in 2003 the BJP fielded Chouhan from Raghogarh against the then chief minister Digvijaya Singh. Though Chouhan lost that election, BJP managed to limit Singh to his constituency and as a result, Congress bowed out of power in the state that year.
The Bharatiya Janata party had to yet again please a veteran of theirs for deciding its candidate from this seat. Former chief minister Babulal Gaur had warned of rebellion if either he or his daughter-in-law wasn’t given the ticket. However, later BJP nominated Krishna Gaur — his daughter-in-law and former BJP Mayor from Govindpura.
The BJP has fielded its lone Muslim woman candidate from the Bhopal North constituency. Fatima Rasool Siddiqui, who is the daughter of former Congress MLA Rasool Ahmed Siddiqui is the party’s candidate from this seat.
Meanwhile, Congress contestant Arif Aqueel is not only a five-time MLA from the seat but has a history of political rivalry with Rasool Ahmed Siddiqui. Rasool had registered back-to-back victories in Bhopal North in the 1980 and 1985 elections as a Congress candidate. But, Aqueel dethroned him in the 1990 Assembly elections as an Independent candidate.
In 1993, BJP's Ramesh Sharma was elected as the MLA from the seat, with Aqueel soon swearing his allegiance with the Congress. He reclaimed the seat in 1998 on the Congress ticket and has since been winning every election here.
The reason for Fatima’s drift towards BJP is the angst against Congress for denying her the opportunity to contest the polls. Her father, who was the first candidate to make Congress win in Bhopal (North) during the 1980 polls. However, the following year, Rasool died and no one in the family was given a ticket by the Congress.
This seat has seen political tension and infighting erupt for both the BJP and the Congress. While, Congress had to remove its initial choice Lakshman Singh Dindor after there were protests against his nomination, the BJP had to face accusations by sitting MLA Mathural Lal Damar of “selling off” the seat to its current candidate Dilip Makwana for Rs 1.5 crore.
Damar had converted the seat in BJP’s favour in the 2013 elections and was thus expecting to be fielded again by the party.
Whereas Congress leader Kamal Nath’s close aide Komal Dhurve also announced her decision to contest as an independent in the upcoming elections after the grand old party decided to pitch Dindor.
Apart from these, voices of dissent have been heard in seats like Satna as both BJP and Congress are dealing with political turncoats ahead of the elections.
BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya’s son Akash who has been fielded from Indore-III is also facing dissent as senior party leader Lalit Porwal filed his nomination as an independent candidate asking where the experienced leaders should go such a situation of younger faces being projected.
The BJP is also facing massive unrest in Bhopal, Indore-1 and Mhow constituencies. In Bhopal, two of BJP’s former MLAs — Brahmananad and Jitendra Daga raised a rebellion against the party as they filed their nomination from Berasia and Huzur respectively. Daga is a close aide of MEA Sushma Swaraj and was given the ticket in 2008 on her insistence. However, he was denied re-nomination in 2013 after his name cropped-up in the Bhopal Development Authority CEO BD Rusia’s death case, The Pioneer reported.
After the murder case of BJP youth leader Praveen Nettaru, BJPYM workers and office bearers from various districts including Vijayapur, Bagalkote, Dakshina Kannada, Chitradurga, Hubli and Koppal resigned and sent a message to the party leaders and the government
During his two-day visit, he can also hold a meeting of the party’s office bearers and the core committee. The BJP President may address a rally in Agartala as well
Kejriwal also guaranteed that Gujarat's tribal advisory committee would be headed by a person from the community instead of the chief minister, as has been the case in the state