BHOPAL: All eyes are on the Congress’ choice of candidate for the crucial by-election to Jhabua Assembly constituency, which it lost to the BJP twice in last six years due to factionalism.
Polling is scheduled on October 21 for the seat where the by-poll was necessitated after BJP MLA GS Damor quit from the MP Assembly after winning the Ratlam-Jhabua Lok Sabha seat.
There are two main contenders — ex-Union minister and five-time former MP from Ratlam-Jhabua Kantilal Bhuria and ex-MLA Javier Medha (who won in 2008).
Other probables include senior leaders Kailash Damor, Laxman Singh Dindor and Ashish Bhuria.
Twice, the party lost due to rebel candidates eating into votes of the official candidate.
In 2013, the party fielded Medha but then Jhabua district panchayat chief Kalawati Bhuria (Kantilal Bhuria’s niece and presently Congress MLA from Jobat) contested as a rebel. The Congress candidate was defeated by over 15,000 votes,
Five years later, the Congress won four of the five Assembly seats in Jhabua and Alirajpur districts but again lost Jhabua by over 10,000 votes. BJP’s GS Damor defeated Kantilal Bhuria’s son Vikrant, thanks to Medha’s ‘revenge’ by securing over 35,000 votes as a rebel candidate.
While Bhuria is seen as ex-CM Digvijaya Singh’s man, Medha is considered close to Jyotiraditya Scindia and Rahul and Sonia Gandhi.
Sources within the Congress in Jhabua said that several ministers and MLAs told the party that Medha could be a better choice for the bypoll as fielding Lok Sabha poll ‘loser’ Bhuria could send wrong signals to party cadres in Jhabua and Alirajpur districts.
Chief Minister and Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee president Kamal Nath has so far managed to bring both Bhuria and Medha on one stage, but their supporters have come out on streets demanding their leaders get the ticket.
Both influential leaders are key to Congress success
Key sources in MPCC confided that the state leadership has made both Bhuria and Medha commit that they would back the party candidate, irrespective who is fielded in the bypoll battle.
Importantly, Jhabua (reserved for ST candidate) is among the eight seats which form Ratlam-Jhabua Lok Sabha seat.
While Congress lost Jhabua to BJP in 2018 by over 10,000 votes, it led at the Jhabua Assembly segment in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections for Ratlam-Jhabua seat by over 9,000 votes, even when sitting BJP legislator GS Damor was himself the BJP candidate. It was possible largely due to Medha flocking behind his bitter rival Bhuria in the Lok Sabha elections for a change.