BJP confident of clean sweep, Congress sees hope in 8-10 seats as stage set for counting in Madhya Pradesh

The counting will decide the fate of several political biggies including two ex-CMs Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Digvijaya Singh and Union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia
Baiga tribal women show their fingers marked with indelible ink after casting their votes for the first phase of Lok Sabha elections, in Dindori district in Madhya Pradesh
Baiga tribal women show their fingers marked with indelible ink after casting their votes for the first phase of Lok Sabha elections, in Dindori district in Madhya Pradesh Photo | PTI

BHOPAL: The stage is set for Tuesday’s counting of votes for the 29 Lok Sabha seats of Madhya Pradesh.

Ahead of the counting, both political camps – the ruling BJP and opposition Congress – expressed confidence about their prospects.

While the BJP is confident of winning all 29 seats, including Chhindwara (Kamal Nath’s citadel which was the lone seat won by the Congress in the 2019 polls), the Congress too is confident of winning 8-10 seats.

Ground reports coming from the 55 districts of the state indicate interesting contests between the BJP and Congress in eight to ten seats, among them Chhindwara, Mandla-ST, Sidhi, Satna, Gwalior, Morena, Bhind-SC, Khargone and Ratlam.

Tuesday’s counting will also decide the fate of several political biggies including two ex-CMs Shivraj Singh Chouhan (BJP) from his old seat Vidisha, Digvijaya Singh (Congress) from his home seat Rajgarh and Union ministers Jyotiraditya Scindia (Guna), Faggan Singh Kulaste (Mandla-ST) and Virendra Khatik (Tikamgarh-SC).

Baiga tribal women show their fingers marked with indelible ink after casting their votes for the first phase of Lok Sabha elections, in Dindori district in Madhya Pradesh
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While Chouhan (contesting from the Vidisha Lok Sabha seat after two decades) is expected to win by a big margin against Congress veteran Pratap Bhanu Sharma, Singh is stuck in a tough battle against second-time BJP MP Rodmal Nagar from home seat Rajgarh (where he is contesting after 33 years), despite the sitting MP facing high anti-incumbency in the RSS stronghold.

Among the three Union ministers in the fray, six-time winner Faggan Singh Kulaste is facing a tough battle against four-time Congress MLA and ex-MP minister Omkar Singh Markam, while Jyotiraditya Scindia is believed to have an edge against old BJP family son and Congress candidate Rao Yadvendra Singh Yadav from Guna seat which Scindia had shockingly failed to retain as Congress candidate in 2019.

The third Union minister Virendra Khatik seems to be comfortably placed against first-time Congress candidate Pankaj Ahirwar, although some Congress leaders in Bhopal claim that the three-time sitting BJP MP may be in for a stunner on counting day.

The other BJP candidates stuck in tough battles include second time sitting MP Janardan Mishra (Rewa) and first-time candidate Dr Rajesh Mishra (Sidhi) due to low polling in both seats. Four-time OBC MP from Satna seat Ganesh Singh is also locked in a triangular battle against ex-BJP MLA Narayan Tripathi (contesting on a BSP ticket) and Congress MLA Siddharth Kushwah (who had defeated Singh in the 2023 assembly polls from Satna seat).

However, if the Congress’s claims actually turn true, then the real surprise could come from the three seats in Gwalior-Chambal region, including Gwalior, Morena and Bhind-SC, from where all the BJP candidates are Vidhan Sabha speaker and ex-Union minister Narendra Singh Tomar’s loyalists.

Baiga tribal women show their fingers marked with indelible ink after casting their votes for the first phase of Lok Sabha elections, in Dindori district in Madhya Pradesh
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In the Malwa-Nimar (western and south-western MP) region which for long has been the RSS-BJP’s strong base, the Congress seems to have little chance in most seats, except Ratlam-ST (from where five times former MP Kantilal Bhuria is again in the fray against MP minister Nagarsingh Chouhan’s wife Anita Chouhan) and Khargone-ST seat from where ex-state government official Porlal Kharte as Congress nominee is taking on sitting MP Gajendra Patel. According to political watchers, Dhar-ST seat too could’ve seen a tough battle between ex-BJP MP Savitri Thakur and Congress candidate Radheyshyam Muvel, but the issue of ASI survey at Bhojshala-Kamal Maula Mosque has possibly led to polarisation of votes on communal lines in two assembly segments – Mhow and Dhar.

Another seat that as per political watchers could see an interesting battle is Damoh (won by ex-Union minister and current MP minister Prahlad Singh Patel in 2014 and 2019) where ex-Congress MLA Tarvar Lodhi is taking on another ex-Congress MLA Rahul Singh Lodhi who is the BJP candidate. But better BJP organization and cadres may see the battle tilt in its favour at the end.

According to Bhopal based political analyst Chandrashekhar Mishra, “The BJP is free to claim that it’s winning all 29 seats, but even its think tank knows that the fight could be close and interesting in 8-10 seats and it won't at all be surprising if the Congress ends up winning 1-3 seats, including Chhindwara and any of the seats among Gwalior, Morena, Mandla, Rajgarh and Satna.”

The BSP which was once a formidable political force in MP, particularly in Vindhya, Bundelkhand and Gwalior-Chambal regions, has made the contest triangular in Satna, Bhind-SC and Morena seats and may be the deciding factor in case of close contests in the three seats.

In two seats, the BJP’s win by a massive margin seems a certainty. While the BJP is confident of winning the Indore seat by over 12 lakh votes against NOTA (as the Congress candidate had withdrawn nominations on April 29), the sitting BJP MP and state party chief VD Sharma too is hoping for a massive win from Khajuraho seat where the INDI bloc is supporting the lesser known All India Forward Bloc candidate RB Prajapati, after the rejection of SP candidate Meera Yadav’s nomination papers on technical grounds.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP had won 28 seats with 58% votes, while the Congress with 34.5% votes could just hold on to Kamal Nath’s citadel Chhindwara from where his son Nakul Nath won by 37,000-plus votes. Nakul is again in the fray from the same seat.

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