Represented by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in the last two Lok Sabhas and earlier by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and former chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Vidisha parliamentary seat has been a BJP stronghold for three decades irrespective of the party in power in Madhya Pradesh.
Spread over Vidisha, Sehore, Raisen and Dewas districts, Vidisha Lok Sabha constituency includes Budhni, which Chouhan has represented in the Assembly since 2006. After Swaraj opted out of the contest this year on health grounds, there was speculation that the BJP might field Chouhan’s wife Sadhna, but that did not happen.
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Considered a high-profile seat in 2014 because of perceived differences between Swaraj and then prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, Vidisha has now lost its shine. Cooperative sector leader Ramakant Bhargav is contesting his maiden election on a BJP ticket against the Congress’s Shailendra Patel, who lost the recent Assembly election from Icchawar in Sehore district.
Although the BJP won six of eight seats that make up Vidisha parliamentary constituency in the recent Assembly elections, it suffered a reversal in Vidisha Assembly seat, a citadel it had held for more than four decades.
BJP candidate for Vidisha Assembly seat Mukesh Tandon, who is considered close to Chouhan, blamed his loss on sabotage.
“The parliamentary seat is synonymous with Shivraj Singh Chouhan and nobody can defeat the BJP,’’ Tandon insisted while overseeing preparations for yet another visit by the former CM to Vidisha town. “I used to look for excuses to transfer money to farmers’ accounts, but this government (Congress) has not only not kept its promise of loan waiver but also taken away the benefits they enjoyed,” he said on Thursday, appealing to the audience not to repeat the “mistakes” of 2018.
Congress MLA from Vidisha Shashank Bhargav said his party was in a better position to win because there was little development when Swaraj was MP.
“Whatever she did was sanctioned during UPA rule,” he claimed, adding that the Congress government in the state fulfilled 83 promises in 76 days.
“Secular people no longer get swayed by emotional issues because they know Narendra Modi diverts attention from real issues,” he said.
The PM had addressed a rally in Vidisha during the Assembly elections, but the BJP lost the seat. Shashank claimed he won even though no big Congress leader addressed a rally there.
However, more than the Congress, it’s the Opposition BJP that is not confident about its leaders putting their differences from Assembly elections behind.
Former finance minister Raghavji, who had been Vidisha MP as well as a legislator, said, “It’s a close contest. The fortress is crumbling. If you deduct the Modi factor, the BJP will find it difficult to retain the seat.’’
The BJP veteran, who had sought a ticket for his daughter, accused Chouhan of poor candidate selection. “No one knows him. He was not even a councillor,” said Raghavji about Ramakant, the BJP candidate for Vidisha.
Ramakant was nominated by Chouhan as chairman of the state marketing cooperative federation. Raghavji said Chouhan was going the extra mile because he knew it would be difficult for Ramakant to pull off a win on his own.
The BJP is seeking votes in the PM’s name rather than its candidate. In rural areas, however, it changes the pitch to the alleged failure of farm loan waiver.
BJP district vice-president Ram Raghuvanshi summed up the campaign theme: “When the Congress government could not waive your loans despite promising it before elections, how do you expect the party to transfer Rs 72,000 per year to your account when it won’t come to power?”
The BJP leader, however, admitted that he himself had applied for loan waiver: “What is wrong in applying for a government scheme? Did we pass on benefits only to BJP people when we were in power?”