High on Assembly gains, Congress eyes an encore in Madhya Pradesh

Five of the six Lok Sabha seats in Madhya Pradesh going to polls on April 29 were won convincingly by the BJP riding the Modi wave in 2014.

BHOPAL: Five of the six Lok Sabha seats in Madhya Pradesh going to polls on April 29 were won convincingly by the BJP riding the Modi wave in 2014. Five years later, when voters in the six constituencies — Chhindwara, Mandla, Balaghat and Jabalpur in the tribal-dominated Mahakaushal region and Sidhi and Shahdol in the Vindhya region — will line up at polling booths to press the EVM button for the second time in five months, the tables have turned.

Last time, five months before the voters in these six constituencies exercised their franchise in the 2014 general election, indications of their voting behaviour were visible in the November 2013 Assembly polls. The BJP won 28 of the 47 Assembly segments that form these six parliamentary seats while the Congress bagged 18.

Five years later, the situation is diametrically opposite. The Congress won 26 Assembly seats in the November 2018 State elections while the BJP’s tally was restricted to 20.

An analysis of the 2018 results shows the Congress swept all seven seats in CM Kamal Nath’s pocket borough Chhindwara, won five out of the eight seats in Balaghat Lok Sabha constituency and pulverized the BJP on six out of eight Mandla seats. Both parties won four Assembly seats each in Jabalpur and Shahdol. Sidhi LS constituency was the only one where the BJP trounced the Congress.

Prestige battle for Nath

The 2019 Lok Sabha elections are of double significance for Kamal Nath. While his son Nakul has entered the fray from Chhindwara Lok Sabha constituency, the CM is making his Assembly poll debut at the age of 72 by contesting the by-election from Chhindwara Assembly seat. The BJP has fielded ex-MLA Nathan Shah to take on Nakul while a greenhorn, Vivek Bunty Sahu, has been fielded against the CM.

The candidates

Shahdol will see perhaps the first-of-its-kind fight between two turncoat woman politicians. BJP candidate Himadri Singh, who had contested the 2016 bypoll as a Congress candidate and had lost, is taking on Pramila Singh of the Congress, who was earlier a BJP MLA. In Jabalpur, which has been a BJP bastion since 1996, Congress’s Rajya Sabha member Vivek Tankha is pitted against three-time MP Rakesh Singh. 
In Mandla, former Union minister and sitting MP Faggan Singh Kulasate is facing Congress candidate Kamal Singh Maravi while in Balaghat, there is a gripping quadrangular contest between BJP’s Dhal Singh Bisen, Congress’ Madhu Bhagat, SP-BSP candidate Kankar Munjare and sitting BJP MP Bodh Singh Bhagat, who is contesting as an independent.

In Sidhi, Congress strongman Ajay Singh ‘Rahul’, son of former CM Arjun Singh, is taking on sitting BJP MP Riti Pathak. It’s a do-or-die battle for Ajay, who had suffered a shock defeat at his family stronghold Churhat in the 2018 Assembly polls. This time, open rebellion against Pathak by local BJP leaders, has brightened his chances. 

Four-cornered contest
5 of these seats were won by BJP in 2014; Chhindwara went to Congress

Interesting contests

CM Kamal Nath’s son Nakul Nath will make Lok Sabha poll debut from father’s pocket borough
It’s a battle of turncoats: BJP candidate Himadri Singh switched over from Cong while Congress candidate Pramila Singh was earlier with BJP

Shahdol to feature turncoats

Shahdol will see a fight between two turncoat leaders. BJP candidate Himadri Singh, who lost the 2016 bypoll on a Congress ticket, is taking on Congress’ Pramila Singh who was earlier  with BJP.

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