Updated: June 10, 2022 2:00:58 pm
A BJP leader in Ujjain for the last three decades, Gulabchand Bhandari stood outside the office of the party’s state president V D Sharma on Thursday, waiting to seek a ticket for the mayoral contest in the city in the coming local body elections. Bhandari claimed that he started out as a booth worker and rose up the party ranks to hold a post in the BJP state working committee. “I am sure the party will consider me for the mayor’s post,” he said.
With nominations for the local elections set to begin on Saturday, Bhandari was among the hundreds of BJP workers who flocked outside the party office in hopes of a ticket. Not only the ruling party, a similar scene has been unfolding outside the state Congress office too since the State Election Commission, earlier this month, announced that the three-phase municipal polls would begin on July 6.
BJP leaders such as Laxmi Yadav and Yogesh Tambekar, the mayoral candidate for the Satna Municipal Corporation, travelled almost 500 km to Bhopal to seek the party ticket. Other aspirants such as Virendra Kumar Pathak came all the way from Singrauli hoping for a mayoral ticket from an unreserved seat, while Nirmala Thakur was hopeful about getting a ticket to contest the elections from the capital city’s Bawadiya Kalan ward.
BJP state working committee member Rajo Malviya, who contested the Bhopal mayoral election in 1999, also sounded hopeful about the party considering her candidature. “I lost due to scheming by the Congress, but over the years I have learnt the finesses of politics. I have just let my higher-ups know that I can be considered. Anyway, we are always committed to doing any work that the party assigns us.”
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The hopes of workers such as Bhandari went up after the party’s national president J P Nadda last week criticised “dynastic politics” and said the party would prioritise its workers over the families of politicians. “We will encourage ministers and lawmakers’ families to work for strengthening the party, but workers will get preference for representation in polls,” Nadda told reporters in Bhopal.
Amid speculations that Jyotiraditya Scindia’s son Mahanaryaman could make his entry into politics during the polls, the Union aviation minister, who is on a two-day visit to Gwalior, said, “I believe that everyone should be given an opportunity. One person from a family is sufficient in politics.”
Meanwhile, two kilometres away, a crowd of ticket aspirants thronged the Congress office on Thursday, with contenders camping outside with their supporters since the morning.
The civic polls were due in December 2019 but could not be held because of a dispute over reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBCs). The dates were announced after the Supreme Court issued an order on May 18, telling the government, “The reservation cap shall not exceed 50 per cent in all categories.”
The changes in the reservation of wards have complicated the candidate selection process, creating problems for both parties. In Bhopal, ward 42 of the Municipal Corporation was held by senior Congress leader Mohammad Sageer, the former Leader of Opposition in the civic body. But now it has been converted to a reserved seat for a woman OBC candidate.
Sageer was looking to shift to the adjoining ward 41 but has run into opposition from local contender Shahwar Khan and his associate Saleem Khan. On Tuesday, the two sides clashed during a meeting chaired by the party to settle their dispute. In a video that went viral, the Sageer and Shahwar’s supporters were seen beating each other up.
Asked about the fight, state Congress president Kamal Nath said on Thursday, “I have been in politics for 45 years. People do good work and expect a ticket. In such situations at times, it leads to friction.”
Nath clarified that he would hold a meeting with the party leaders in charge of district units and suitable candidates would be fielded. “Everyone asks for tickets during elections but it is finally one person who gets it. We will take the decision keeping in view that the organisation needs to be strengthened and not a particular individual,” he said.
The BJP got embroiled in controversy this week when its Gwalior district president Kamal Makheeja was filmed collecting Rs 10,000 along with the biodatas of ticket aspirants outside the party’s district office. The video went viral. When questioned, Makheeja told reporters that he was collecting biodatas and “Samarpan Needhi (donations)” for the party. The Congress’s district president, Devendra Sharma, alleged that it was extortion.
Of the 413 municipal bodies in the state, 133 will go to the polls on July 6, while elections for 214 municipalities will be held in the second phase on July 13. The elections in the remaining municipalities will be held at a later date yet to be notified. The results of the first two phases will be declared on July 17 and 18. Nominations for the post of mayors in 16 municipal corporations and over 6,500 municipal councillors will be notified on June 11.
The BJP has already kickstarted its campaign, with state BJP president V D Sharma beginning his “Booth Vijay Sankalp Abhiyaan” on Friday. He will try to reach out to voters who benefitted from various state and Central government welfare schemes, and community influencers.
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