Despite suffering a setback in the recently held Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, where it was upstaged by the Congress after 15 years, BJP is hoping to repeat its performance of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, where it won 27 of the total 29 seats. According to the latest trends, BJP this time is leading the race with 28 seats.
The Congress was down to just two seats in the state, a far cry from 2009 when it had bagged 12.
In the December 2018 Assembly elections, despite a neck-and-neck fight, Congress wrested power from Shivraj Singh Chouhan, winning 114 seats. However, exit polls indicated that the party won’t be able to retain its ground, signalling a difference in voting pattern between the assembly polls and the parliamentary elections.
Guna and Chhindwara
Guna and Chhindwara were the two seats in which the Congress tasted success in the 2014 parliamentary polls. The party repeated Jyotiraditya Scindia as its candidate from Guna, a bastion of the Scindia family. However, Scindia has lost by over 1 lakh 20 thousand votes. Chief Minister Kamal Nath’s son Nakul who competed in his maiden poll race from his father’s seat Chhindwara, was the only Congress candidate who tasted success defeating his opponent BJP MLA Nathan Shah Kavreti. Senior Nath, who had won the seat for the first time in 1980, contested a by-election from Chhindwara assembly segment.
However, this year cooperative sector leader Ramakant Bhargav contested his maiden election from Vidisha on a BJP ticket after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj backed out of the contest just before polls this year citing health issues.
With Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, who turned 76 in April, out of the fray in Indore, Congress will be hoping to win back the city after 30 years. The Grand Old Party had last won the seat in 1984 when there was a Congress landslide.
While BJP is confident that its new candidate Shankar Lalwani will win with the support of cadres, his lack of influence in rural areas may work to the advantage of the Congress. Indore, with 23 lakh voters, has 3 lakh Marathis, 2.5 lakh Brahmins, 3 lakh Muslims and a significant Gujarati Jain vote bank. With Mahajan’s exit, not just Marathi, but even Gujarati-Jain votes are expected to split.
With Congress fielding two-time chief minister Digvijaya Singh from a constituency that has been held by the BJP since 1989, the fight in Bhopal was never expected to be simple for the Grand Old Party.
With BJP fielding Malegaon blast accused Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, a Hindu hardliner, against Singh who the BJP calls a Hindu-baiter, the stage had been set for a highly polarising battle in Bhopal. Interestingly, in the Assembly elections three Congress legislators, including two Muslims, were elected from Bhopal.
Be it his Narmada yatra or performing rituals in presence of Computer Baba alias Namdeo Das Tyagi, Digvijaya has left no stones unturned to build a parallel image to woo the Hindu voters.
Just before the elections, factionalism within the Congress appeared to dent their prospects in Hoshangabad constituency. The tussle over district president chief’s post that began a year ago intensified before and after the Assembly polls last year, leaving cadres confused about whose orders to follow while preparing for the Lok Sabha polls.
The BJP has retained Congress turncoat Rao Uday Pratap Singh, who won by a margin of nearly 3.9 lakh votes in 2014. The Congress has fielded Shailendra Diwan, 39, whose father Chandrabhan Singh was a minister in the Digvijaya Singh government in the 1990s.
However, the situation in the BJP camp is also not hunky dory. Not every local BJP leader, however, has still reconciled to the defection of Singh. The election this time is, thus, being fought with leaders suspicious of others’ intentions.