BHOPAL: At the beginning of the poll season, it was billed as a Thakur Vs Brahmin battle. Not even a week into the campaign, local rhetoric has turned the contest upside down. Now, it’s an outsider vs local battle in Khajuraho — one of the seven constituencies in the Bundelkhand and Vindhyan region of Madhya Pradesh going to polls on May 6.
The seat, which has been won seven times by the BJP, is considered to be the home turf of former Union minister Uma Bharti. Though the seat is set for a triangular contest between Congress, BJP and the Samajwadi Party, it will ultimately boil down to BJP versus Congress. While the Congress has fielded Kavita Singh, wife of Rajnagar MLA Vikram Singh ‘Natiraja’ (former king of erstwhile Rajnagar princely state), the BJP has fielded its state general secretary VD Sharma. The SP has made the contest interesting by fielding Veer Singh Patel, son of dreaded Chambal dacoit Shiv Kumar alias Dadua.
Sharma, a Brahmin, is eyeing over three lakh caste votes. However, the move to field Sharma instead of Nandita Pathak — the foster daughter of Bharat Ratna Nanaji Deshmukh — could backfire as a large section of the local leadership, including ex-MP minister Lalita Yadav and senior leader Sanjay Nagaich, are against Sharma.
A senior BJP leader, who did not wish to be named, said the RSS and BJP rank and file are working hard to ensure Sharma’s win, but a division in the cadre votes cannot be ruled out. Another headache for the party is the presence of Veer Singh Patel, who is the former SP MLA from Chitrakoot Sadar.
According to political analysts, in the past, the BJP has gained owing to a large chunk of OBC, SC and ST votes (around 40%) going to its candidates. In particular, the Kurmi community, which forms a large chunk of the crucial OBC vote bank. In 2014, the Kurmis had backed the BJP, especially due to the presence of ex-MP minister Ramkrishna Kusmaria.With Kusmaria now in the Congress and the Kurmi community having its own candidate Veer Singh Patel, the powerful OBC vote might get split.
Congress candidate Kavita Singh, who is related to the erstwhile Panna royal family, might gain votes due to the clean image of her husband and Congress MLA Vikram Singh. The Congress last won the seat in 1999, when its senior leader Satyavrat Chaturvedi won, but his camp is against Vikram.The BJP has roped in all senior leaders for campaigning knowing that there is internal dissent against Sharma. While BJP chief Amit Shah has addressed meetings here, four-time former MP Uma Bharti too has pitched.
“Who says Sharma is an outsider? Even I was an outsider in Jhansi in 2014, but managed to win by a huge margin,” said Bharti. In 2014, another outsider, BJP’s Nagendra Singh (from Nagor princely state in Satna) had won the seat defeating ex-MP minister Raja Pateria.In 2018, the BJP had won six out of eight assembly segments forming Khajuraho.