As eight seats in the Malwa-Nimar region of Madhya Pradesh vote in the final phase on May 19, the Congress will hope to carry forward its gains from the recent Assembly elections. In 2014, the BJP had won all the eight Lok Sabha seats. However, in a bypoll held in late 2015, the Congress had managed to win the Ratlam Lok Sabha seat.
Both the BJP and Congress have fielded new faces in these constituencies. While the former has dropped five of its sitting MPs, the latter has renominated sitting MP and former Union minister Kantilal Bhuria from Ratlam.
Lok Sabha Elections 2019 | Polling schedule, results date, constituency-wise election results, key candidates
Among the key constituencies that vote on May 19 are Mandsaur, where police firing had led to the death of five farmers in 2017, and Indore, the seat currently represented by Sumitra Mahajan, the outgoing Lok Sabha speaker and eight-time MP. Mahajan is not contesting the elections this time.
In the 2018 Assembly polls, the BJP won seven of the eight Assembly segments that make up the Mandsaur seat. The constituency, spread over Mandsaur, Neemuch and Ratlam districts, bore the brunt of unrest over falling commodity prices.
It was here that Congress president Rahul Gandhi had announced, on the first anniversary of the firing incident, the farm loan waiver scheme, which, analysts believe, helped the Congress wrest power from the BJP after 15 years.
Farmers to hold key
The last stretch in Madhya Pradesh includes Mandsaur, where five farmers died in police firing in 2017. While in the 2018 state election, the BJP won seven of the eight segments that make up the Lok Sabha seat, the Congress, which came to power riding on its farm loan waiver scheme, hopes to reverse its fortunes.
While the BJP did well in Mandsaur in the recent Assembly election, the Congress put up an impressive performance in Dhar, Jhabua, Alirajpur and Khargone districts that constitute the Dhar, Khargone and Ratlam Lok Sabha seats, all of which are reserved for the Scheduled Tribes. The BJP has fielded Jhabua MLA Gumansingh Damor, the only sitting legislator in the fray, to take on Bhuria in Ratlam.
In its election campaign, the BJP has been targeting the state Congress government over the farm loan waiver scheme, arguing that the party had failed to keep its promise. The Congress, on its part, has countered the accusation by producing a list with names of beneficiaries, which include relatives of former chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
The BJP has fielded Shankar Lalwani in Indore, the seat synonymous with BJP veteran Sumitra Mahajan, who first won it in 1989. Mahajan, who turned 76 this year, was willing to contest but opted out after the party took time to announce her candidature.
In a rally in Indore on May 12, Modi took Mahajan’s name several times in a bid to placate her, saying she was the only person who could scold him.
Till recently, Indore was considered a safe seats for the BJP. However, in the Assembly elections, both the Congress and BJP won four seats each. Both the national parties have been campaigning extensively in the city. While the BJP has been holding rallies, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra held a road show and also addressed a gathering in support of candidate Pankaj Sanghvi.
In Khandwa, former Union minister and PCC chief Arun Yadav is taking on Nandkumar Singh Chouhan, the former state BJP chief. In 2014, Chouhan had defeated Yadav, who had also contested against former chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan in the 2018 Assembly elections from Budhni and lost.