BHOPAL: BJP and Congress in Madhya Pradesh are trying to put each other in the dock over the massive explosion at Petlawad town in Jhabua district that claimed 89 lives, with the opposition party claiming that it will impact the forthcoming Ratlam-Jhabua Lok Sabha seat bypoll.
State Congress spokesman Pankaj Chaturvedi said the BJP government has been "exposed" by the September 12 blast caused by mining explosives stockpiled in a building that ripped through a crowded area near a bus stand in Petlawad.
"The Petlawad incident has exposed the BJP government totally, especially its claim of good governance. Earlier also the Congress was very strong in the tribal-dominated seat and is sure to wrest it from the BJP."
"The countdown for ending BJP rule in the state will begin from (Congress') certain victory in Ratlam-Jhabua by-poll," he said confidently.
The bypoll to Ratlam-Jhabua seat has been necessitated following the demise of sitting BJP MP Dileep Singh Bhuria.
However, BJP denied that the bypoll will be affected by the incident and said the party will retain the seat. It also dismissed suggestions that the bypoll was weighing on Chief Minister Shivraj Singh's mind as he visited Petlawad twice after the blast despite being heckled on the first day.
He not only enhanced the ex-gratia to Rs 5 lakh to the kin of the deceased, but also announced a slew of measures to rehabilitate the survivors.
"It is not correct to say that BJP government is taking care of the victims of explosion with an eye on the Lok Sabha bypoll. MP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh visited the victims to share the pain and agony of those who lost their kin in the explosion and not to draw political mileage," state BJP unit spokesman Deepak Vijayvargiya said.
The CM also visited 17 villages and personally went to console those who have lost their family members.
An eyewitness Welsingh said, "People heckled Chouhan when he reached Petlawad on September 13, but within fifteen minutes they raised slogans in his favour after he spoke to them and offered assistance."
Vijayvargiya exuded confidence that the BJP will win the byelection, whenever it is held. "As far as the byelection is concerned, firstly, it has not yet been announced, but whenever it will take place, BJP is going to win as it has a very strong active booth network in entire constituency. The explosion has its effect only in Petlawad area," he claimed.
Since 1951, Congress has won the Lok Sabha elections from Jhabua 13 times. BJP won it for the first time last year when Dileep Singh Bhuria defeated Kantilal Bhuria by a margin of over one lakh votes.
After the blast, the state BJP and Congress had engaged in a war of words over Jhabua blast main accused Rajendra Kasawa's political affiliation.
While the Congress described the main accused in the Petlawad blast Rajendra Kasawa as the RSS man, state BJP chief Nandkumar Singh Chauhan linked him to former Union Minister Kantilal Bhuria's son Vikrant Bhuria. However, when the RSS claimed that the photograph of the accused being circulated by Congress was not of Kasawa, they filed a complaint at Petlawad police station following which a case was registered against state Congress president Arun Yadav, chief spokesman KK Mishra and office secretary Anoop Shrivastava.
This infuriated Congress which staged a protest throughout September 16 night before a police station in Jhabua, demanding registration of an FIR against the state BJP chief for falsely linking the name of Bhuria's son with the main accused in the explosion.
"Nandkumar has told media in Bhopal that Kasawa was a close friend of my son Vikrant, which is totally baseless. My son does have a friend named Rajendra Kasawa, but he is 30-year-old and lives in Jhabua town, not in Petlawad," Bhuria had earlier clarified.
Bhuria alleged that police registered FIR against Congress leaders following pressure from the ruling BJP government.