Hoshangabad: Among the interesting electoral battles in Madhya Pradesh assembly elections, there is a virtual BJP versus BJP contest in Hoshangabad where a disciple is taking on his mentor.
Sixty-seven-year-old Assembly speaker Dr Sitasaran Sharma of Bharatiya Janata Party is pitted against former BJP veteran and now a turncoat, Sartaj Singh, who joined Congress just a day before the last day of filing nomination over ticket denial from Seoni-Malwa.
Latching onto the opportunity, the Congress fielded Singh against assembly speaker Dr Sitasharan Sharma from Hoshangabad, a constituency where Sharma family has been ruling for decades.
It’s quite interesting that the two, standing against each other in the upcoming elections, were once party colleagues. It was Singh who had inspired Sharma, a professional physician, in the late 1980s to join politics.
The 78-year-old Sartaj Singh has been among the mainstays of Bharatiya Janata Party in Madhya Pradesh, who remained party vice president from 1991-1994, was member of party national executive, was part of late PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s 13-day government as cabinet minister and was in Shivraj cabinet till 2016 when he was shunted on grounds of his age.
Singh was at odds with the party since then and was said to be in touch with the Congress leaders recently.
Many believe that despite Singh contesting under the Congress flag, it’s virtually a BJP versus BJP contest as both the leaders derive their strength from the cadre of the saffron party.
Both are known for their down-to-earth image and strong bonding with the locals.
Singh, who is a native of Hoshangabad, went up the ranks in BJP with his hard work and grit trampling Congress veterans like Arjun Singh and Hazarilal Raghuwanshi, while Sharma inherited politics and power as his family has remained at the helm in Hoshangabad for several decades.
While eldest among four brothers – Kripashankar Sharma was a bureaucrat and retired as the Chief Secretary, his brothers Bhawani Shankar and Girija Shankar also represented Hoshangabad in state assembly.
Girija Shankar who was suspended from the party for rebellion in local body polls in 2014 made a comeback to party folds on Thursday and political analysts attribute his ‘homecoming’ to the challenge posed by veteran Sartaj Singh to his family.
Meanwhile, this ‘guru-shishya’ (mentor-disciple) battle comes as an aberration for Hoshangabad, which has the reputation of carrying bonhomie among the staunchest political rivals in the past.
Senior journalist Rakesh Diwan who also hails to Hoshangabad claims the ugly political rivalry had always been missing from Hoshangabad where several politicians did not contest at times to avoid severing personal relations. Diwan recounted a famous instance during emergency when then MLA Vinay Diwan’s one of the wards was getting married and the visitors were amused to see his staunch political rival and the then deputy assembly speaker Ramgopal Maheshwari serving food to the guests.
The tradition was also visible recently when during nominations, both Singh and Dr Sharma met at the election office and the latter was quick to touch feet of his guru and political adversary to seek blessings.
Meanwhile, despite their amenable natures, both Sartaj Singh and Dr Sharma are expected to fight tooth and nail to save their political legacy.