Pradeep Upadhyay, BJP leader and campaign co-convener, is certain that Gumansingh Damor, the party MLA from Jhabua Assembly constituency in Madhya Pradesh, will help the saffron party regain Ratlam-Jhabua Lok Sabha seat. “The BJP will lose one MLA but the victory in Lok Sabha polls will entail the collapse of the Congress government in the state. There will be fresh Assembly elections, and the BJP will return,” he says.
Upadhyay’s confidence, however, is at variance with the history of Ratlam-Jhabua Parliamentary seat, which has mostly elected Congress candidates. The exception in recent times being 2014, when Congress’s Kantilal Bhuria, a former Union minister, lost to BJP’s Dilip Singh Bhuria in the middle of the Narendra Modi wave. The BJP won 27 of Madhya Pradesh’s 29 seats. Kantilal regained the seat in the bypolls the following year, necessitated by Dilip Singh’s death.
Dilip Singh won the seat five times on a Congress ticket between 1980 and 1996. Kantilal won the next four as a Congress candidate before Dilip Singh defeated him on a BJP ticket in 2014.
The Lok Sabha constituency is spread over eight Assembly segments in Jhabua, Alirajpur and Ratlam districts. In the December 2018 Assembly elections, the Congress won five seats and the BJP three, including Jhabua, represented by Damor. One of the reasons why the BJP chose to field Damor is that he defeated Kantilal Bhuria’s son Dr Vikrant Bhuria by more than 10,000 votes in the Vidhan Sabha polls.
BJP supporter Gopal Sharma is confident of Congressman Bhuria’s defeat — “he has no achievement to his name despite being an MP for so long.’’ He credits every development in the constituency to the 15-year BJP state government from 2003.
Paras Saklecha, former Independent MLA from Ratlam who is now in Congress, disagrees. “The Congress will win by a margin of 1 lakh,’’ he says. Referring to the Assembly polls, he says the Congress is already ahead by nearly 30,000 votes.
A senior RSS functionary says Ratlam-Jhabua was a Congress bastion for decades, but a massive convention of Hindus, organised by the RSS, VHP and Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad in 2001 gave the BJP a foothold.