As exit polls in Madhya Pradesh lean more towards a cliff-hanger, the contest between Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress turned a little more heated. Most surveys have predicted a neck-and-neck fight for the majority mark in the state. While the accuracy of exit polls may be dubious, but the trends are enough to indicate the BJP is unlikely to achieve Amit Shah's stated target of 200 seats in the state.
The ruling party had fielded its candidates in all 230 seats, while Congress fielded 223 candidates. In Madhya Pradesh, a total of 2,907 candidates are in fray for the 28 November Assembly elections, with the maximum 34 candidates locking horns in Mehgaon constituency. A minimum of four candidates will battle it out in Gunnor seat in Panna district.
However, one of the most keenly watched constituency will be Budhni, the home turf of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, where he is battling the Congress heavyweight in the state Arun Yadav. Likewise, we curated a list of important candidates entwined in the electoral battle this season.
Shivraj Singh Chouhan
After being chief minister for an uninterrupted 13 years, Shivraj Singh Chouhan faces his toughest battle yet in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections. The chief minister is contesting the election from Budhni constituency, and is close to his ancestral village Jait.
His political career began when he was still a student. According to his profile in Fortune India, Chouhan was a student activist from an anti-Gandhi underground movement, who was arrested and sent to Jail during the emergency period. Unaffiliated to a political party at the time, Chouhan was noticed by other RSS leaders in the Bhopal prison at the time, after he took severe beatings throughout his term but refused to name his associates in fuelling anti-Indira Gandhi sentiment. The beatings from the time weakened Chouhan's knee for a lifetime, but instead propped up his political career to take new heights.
He was first elected as MLA from Budhni in 1990 before becoming an MP by winning a bypoll from the Vidisha Lok Sabha seat in 1991. Chouhan went on to win the Vidisha Lok Sabha seat in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2004.
However, in 2005, Chouhan took over as Madhya Pradesh chief minister and won the bypoll from Budhni in 2006 to get elected to Assembly. He beat the Congress' Rajkumar Patel, a former minister, by a margin of 36,000 votes.
He won from the seat again in the 2008 and 2013 Assembly polls, defeating the Congress' Mahesh Singh Rajput and Mahendra Singh Chauhan by a margin of 41,000 votes and 84,000 votes respectively.
The Congress, in the hope to break into the BJP fortress by taking the fight to the chief minister's home, has fielded its former state unit chief Arun Yadav.
At the politically young age of 44, Yadav has seen a lot already in politics. He is a two-term Lok Sabha Member of Parliament, has been in the Union Cabinet of the UPA-II led by Manmohan Singh as Minister of State, holding a wide range of portfolios including Sports and Youth Affairs, Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises, and Agriculture.
Following the crushing defeat of the party in the Lok Sabha in 2014, the Congress, where he served as a secretary to the AICC, made him president of the Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee, making him one of the youngest Pradesh Congress Committee heads in India, before he recently handed over the reins to Kamal Nath. In over three years of leading the Congress in Madhya Pradesh, he has strengthened the party in the state and led several agitations against the Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led BJP government in the state.
Sartaj Singh, once a minister in the NDA government at the Centre and in Chouhan's cabinet at the state, might not have made it to the list had the BJP nominated him. What garners even more attention to the septuagenarian's profile this election season is the fact that he quit the party of which he was a member for decades, and decided to contest elections from the Hoshangabad seat on a Congress ticket against the BJP.
Singh, reportedly, cried after the BJP declared another name from the Hoshangabad seat, citing its policy to retire people after the age of 70 years. The Congress party, hours later, declared Singh as its candidate from the same seat and formally inducted him into the party. Singh (78), a sitting MLA from Seoni-Malwa, will take on Madhya Pradesh Assembly Speaker and BJP candidate Sitasharan Sharma in Hoshangabad.
Sanjay Singh Masani
Another name to have ruffled feathers by joining the Congress was of Sanjay Singh Masani, brother-in-law of Chief Minister Chouhan. Masani has been fielded from Waraseoni Vidhan Sabha seat in the Naxal-affected district of Balaghat. He is said to have been seeking a BJP ticket from the constituency since 2013, although, ironically he charged the saffron party of nepotism in ticket distribution as he joined Congress. Waraseoni is currently represented by BJP's Yogendra Nirmal.
Krishna Gour, former mayor of Bhopal and daughter-in-law of former MP chief minister Babulal Gaur is another prominent name amid the candidates in fray from Madhya Pradesh. Although Krishna says she secured the ticket on the basis of her own merit, and her previous experience as mayor, it is an open secret in state that she was chosen to pacify Gaur who was adamant on getting a ticket for himself from the prestigious seat of Govindpura in Bhopal.
However, the contest at the seat is tough as even after withdrawal there are still 17 candidates including eight independents, contesting from here.
Fatima Rasool Siddique
BJP's lone Muslim candidate in the state, Fatima Rasool Siddique is the daughter of former state minister and Congress leader Rasool Ahmed Siddique. Her family has strong ties with the Congress party. Apart from Fatima's father Rasool, her mother too sought the Congress ticket from Bhopal North, After Rasool Siddique's death 20 years ago. However, she did not get it and since then the family had been feeling let down by the Congress.
This time around, Fatima has been fielded from the Bhopal North seat by BJP against five-time MLA of the Congress, Arif Aqueel, who had contested against her father in 1993.
Fatima, a new entrant in the saffron party says she was influenced by Chouhan's secular spirit and development work.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Dec 10, 2018 21:18:55 IST