The byelection to Maihar assembly constituency in Madhya Pradesh appears set to be a battle between two leaders who have just hopped parties. The BJP has already announced it will field Narayan Tripathi, who won this seat before he defected from the Congress to the BJP, while the Congress has freshly inducted Manish Patel, who contested the 2013 election on the BSP symbol.
Though the Congress is yet to name Patel as its candidate, it is widely believed that he will contest against Tripathi because he has done well earlier. On the BSP ticket, he had got more than 40,000 votes last time and finished third after the Congress and the BJP.
The schedule for the byelection, necessitated by Tripathi’s resignation after he switched parties, is yet to be announced but it has already become a prestige battle for Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. The CM has visited Maihar twice in recent days and announced schemes worth hundreds of crores. After losing the Ratlam (ST) parliamentary byelection, the BJP is keen to snatch Maihar from the Congress, and confident after having won over the MLA himself.
If the Congress does field Patel, it will be a throwback to a formula it has used successfully earlier. In August 2014, when byelections were held to three constituencies, the Congress had fielded a candidate who had formerly contested for the BSP, and wrested the Bahoriband seat from the BJP. Though the BJP won the other two seats, the Bahorband loss rankled.
“I was not comfortable with the BJP’s ideology,” Patel said after joining the Congress, while claiming that the ruling party, too, had tried to persuade him to join it. “I have not joined the Congress for the ticket,’’ he added. Two of Patel’s relatives were elected MLAs in the past.
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The BJP accused the Congress of “striking a deal” in wooing Patel before the elections while the Congress dismissed the allegation as a sign of nervousness in the ruling camp.
The Kurmi caste to which Patel belongs has a population of just under 40,000 in Maihar, which has over 2 lakh voters. Tripathi had defeated BJP candidate Ramesh Prasad by a margin of 6,975 votes in 2013.