It’s still a year for Anuj Malviya to turn 18 but if he could vote, he would have voted for Rahul Gandhi, the youngster said. “The promise of Rs 72,000 per year (under Congress’s promised NYAY scheme) sounds more credible than the one about transferring Rs 15 lakh in bank accounts at one go,’’ said the teenager, at the family’s retail shop near the bus stand in this town in Madhya Pradesh.
His father Narendra, in his late-forties, however, said he will back Prime Minister Narendra Modi when the constituency goes to the polls on May 6, even though others in his family are staunch Congress supporters. “Log BJP ko gaali de rahe hai par Narendra Modi unke dimag me bhara hua hai (People are critical of the BJP but are rooting for Modi),” he said.
The father-son duo’s reflections could well be the story in short for candidates of both parties in Hoshangabad — the focus more on national leaders of either party.
On Tuesday, Modi and Rahul addressed rallies almost simultaneously at Itarsi and Pipariya, both in Hoshangabad district. The venues — in the same constituency — and the timing was sheer coincidence, but in a way the voters were helped to make up their mind because few here speak of the candidates.
The BJP has retained 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.
Aware of the differences within the ranks, leaders of both parties find it easier to seek votes in the name of their national leaders than talk about the candidates and risk driving local rivals into inaction. When they are through with the national leaders, they talk for and against the four-month old Kamal Nath government in the state.
A day after Modi’s rally, the BJP held a meeting of its OBC Morcha in the presence of party’s state president Bhagat Singh Kushwah at the BJP’s Hoshangabad office. During the meeting, lasting more than half-an-hour, neither Kushwah nor any local leader even mentioned the candidate’s name. They focused on the PM’s caste and his government’s achievements. Local BJP leaders are carrying their mutual grievances from the Assembly polls to the General Election.
Factionalism in the Congress appears to be worse. The tussle over district president chief’s post began a year ago, intensified before and after the Assembly polls, and it has left telltale signs on preparations for Lok Sabha elections, with cadres confused about whose orders to follow.
Chief Minister Kamal Nath, who is also the state Congress chief, had to recently intervene and tell local leaders to wait until the elections are over for him to sort out the differences.
Uday Pratap, the sitting BJP MP, had won from Hoshangabad in 2009 on a Congress ticket. He defected to BJP before the 2014 General Election and won with a handsome margin. Not every local BJP leader, however, has still reconciled to the defection. The election this time is, thus, being fought with leaders suspicious of others’ intentions.
Of the eight Assembly segments in Hoshangabad seat, BJP had won all four in the district last year. The Congress won two of the three segments in Narsinghpur district and one in Raisen district.
“Jamke sabotage chal raha hai dono side mein (saboteurs working on both sides),” said Dushyant Chouhan, who owns Highway Glory dhaba, on the road between Hoshangabad and Itarsi. He said instructions have gone from certain leaders to their cadres to settle scores with rivals who harmed them during the Assembly polls.