Bhopal: Eight constituencies in Madhya Pradesh, which will vote in the last round of seven-phase Lok Sabha elections on May 19, will decide the fate of a number of key candidates including former Union ministers Kantilal Bhuria and Arun Yadav, sitting MLA Guman Singh Damor and a few greenhorns, among others. Also in the running are former state BJP president Nandkumar Singh Chauhan and senior Congress leader Meenakshi Natrajan.
The constituencies in the state going to polls in the last round are Dewas, Ujjain, Mandsaur, Ratlam, Dhar, Indore, Khargone and Khandwa. All eight seats are held by the BJP. Bhuria, the sitting Congress MP from Ratlam-Jhabua seat is up against Damor, the sitting BJP MLA from Jhabua. This is Damor's maiden parliamentary poll.
After retiring as engineer-in-chief from the public health department, Damor joined the BJP before the 2018 Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections. In a successful electoral debut, he defeated Bhuria's son Vikrant with a margin of nearly 10,400 votes. Now, Damor is challenging Bhuria Senior, who has been a Congress MP since 1998 and has lost only one election so far.
Bhuria was defeated by Congress turncoat and BJP candidate Dileep Singh Bhuria in the 2014 general election. However, he wrested the seat — considered a Congress stronghold, from the saffron party in the 2015 bypoll, which was necessitated after Dileep Singh's death. He defeated the late BJP MP's daughter, Nirmala, with a margin of 88,000 votes. Since 1957, the Congress has only lost the Ratlam-Jhabua Lok Sabha seat thrice — in 1971, 1977 and 2014.
The electoral battle for Ratlam-Jhabua — a tribal-dominated seat in western Madhya Pradesh which is considered a Congress stronghold, has witnessed a high-pitched poll campaign.
The BJP's star campaigner Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress stalwarts including party president Rahul Gandhi and general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra have addressed rallies in the constituency.
The Khandwa Lok Sabha seat will witness a contest between Chauhan, who is the sitting BJP MP, and Congress's Yadav. Chauhan and Yadav have served as state unit presidents of their respective parties in the past. Chauhan has won from Khandwa five times so far since 1996, except in 2009 when Yadav defeated him.
In the 2014 general election, Chauhan snatched the seat again from Yadav. The BJP leader won with a margin of over 2.5 lakh votes. Mandsaur will see Natrajan, a former lieutenant of Congress president, try her luck again after being defeated in 2014. She will take on BJP's sitting MP Sudhir Gupta, who had defeated her in the last election by over three lakh votes.
Mandsaur made headlines after six farmers were killed in alleged police firing in 2017, when the BJP was in power in Madhya Pradesh. Subsequent protests, including one by Gandhi, helped the Congress end the BJP's 15-year rule in the state.
In the state's financial capital, Indore, the BJP has fielded former corporator and senior local leader Shankar Lalwani, dropping its eight-time MP and Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan.
Lalwani will take on Congress candidate Pankaj Sanghvi. Both the BJP and the Congress have fielded fresh faces from Dewas. Folk singer Prahlad Tiapaniya will lock horns with civil judge-turned-politician Mahendra Solanki in this reserved (SC) seat.
In Ujjain, which is another reserved seat, two former MLAs are pitted against each other — Anil Firojia of the BJP and Babulal Malviya of the Congress. In Dhar, the BJP has fielded former MP Chhattar Singh Darbar against Congress greenhorn Dinesh Girewal.
In Khargone, where Modi addressed his last political rally for this Lok Sabha election, Gajendra Patel of the BJP and Govind Mujalda of the Congress are pitted against each other. Both of them are contesting their maiden parliamentary election.