BHOPAL: Riding the Modi wave, the BJP had swept all eight seats in the Malwa-Nimar region of Madhya Pradesh in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Four years later, it was the Congress which triumphed in the region, particularly in 32 Assembly segments of four tribal-dominated Lok Sabha seats, during the 2018 state polls, which helped the Congress end the BJP’s 15-year rule.
The Congress won 25 of the 32 Assembly segments of Khargone, Dhar, Ratlam and Khandwa parliamentary constituencies six months back, riding the massive anti-incumbency against the BJP rule and the farmer unrest of 2017, coupled with the promise of agri loan waiver within 10 days of coming to power.
Now the four seats, including three reserved (ST) constituencies — Khargone, Dhar and Ratlam — will go to polls along with four other seats of western MP on May 19.
While the Congress is keen at replicating the 2018 success on the back of farm loan waiver and the promised minimum income guarantee scheme (Nyay), the BJP is banking on the charisma of PM Narendra Modi and the positive mood among tribals post-Balakot airstrikes.
Also on stake is the prestige of four cabinet ministers of the Kamal Nath government — Vijaylaxmi Sadho, Bala Bachchan, Sachin Yadav and forest minister Umang Shingar — who belong to the region.
Bhurias’ era over?
A Congress citadel where it won 14 out of the last 17 elections and bypolls, the seat comprises eight Assembly segments five of which were won by the party in 2018.
The seat has been dominated by Congress tribal politicians in the past, including former deputy CM Jamuna Devi (1962), Dilip Singh Bhuria (1980-1996) and current MP Kantilal Bhuria (1998-2009 and 2015). The BJP won the seat only once, in 2014.
This time the contest is between Congress’s Kantilal Bhuria and BJP MLA from Jhabua, GS Damor, who had defeated his rival’s son Vikrant in the Assembly polls.
Will another Bhilala win?
Spread across Dhar and Indore districts, the seat was won seven times by the Congress and six times by the BJP.
In 2014, BJP’s Savitri Thakur defeated present MP forest minister Umang Shingar. This time, both Congress candidate Dinesh Girwal and his BJP rival, two-time former MP Chhatar Singh Darbar, are facing opposition from party ranks.
While a group led by former MP Gajendra Singh Rajukhedi is opposed to Girwal’s candidature, the BJP faction led by sitting MP is opposing Darbar. Most MPs from Dhar in the past hailed from Bhilala tribal group.
Clash of first-timers
Here, it’s a clash between two first-timers — radiologist-turned-politician Govind Mujalde (Congress) and former MP minister Umrav Singh Patel’s son Gajendra Patel (BJP).
In 2014, BJP’s Subhash Patel had won the seat, but the party denied him ticket this time owing to anti-incumbency. The constituency covers Khargone and Barwani districts.
The Congress is upbeat as it had won five of the eight Assembly segments.
But many in the Congress are upset over a radiologist with little political experience being given the ticket and the dissent within its ranks could hurt the party’s chances.
Encore of 2009 and 2014
The BJP and the Congress candidates will take on each other for the third time in succession from the constituency spread across four districts.
Interestingly, both are also former state presidents of their parties.
BJP’s Nandkumar Singh Chauhan has won five times, including in 2014. Taking on Chauhan is former Union minister Arun Yadav, who had defeated him in 2009.
While Yadav is confident of winning, Chauhan is working hard to defend his seat, particularly due to the apprehension of party’s faction led by former minister Archana Chitnis not being wholeheartedly behind him.