Bhopal:Having drawn a blank in Madhya Pradesh’s Malwa-Nimar region in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the Congress has gone all out to register something on its score-sheet this time, while the BJP is pushing hard to maintain its previous election’s undefeated record.
As the region goes to polls in the last phase on May 19, the BJP and the Congress have not only pushed their state leaderships to canvass but also roped in bigwigs to woo voters. The BJP had won all eight seats here in 2014 general elections.
For the BJP, star campaigner Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed election rallies in Indore, Khandwa and Ratlam, while the Congress also banked on its high profile campaigners like party chief Rahul Gandhi and general secretary Priyanka Gandhi.
If PM Modi drew a huge crowd in his public meeting in Indore on Saturday, the Congress also managed to draw massive crowd at Priyanka Gandhi’s roadshow in Indore on Monday.
A high profile seat, Indore seems a challenge for the BJP which tossed up a surprise by dropping Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan from the poll fray and fielded a rookie, Shankar Lalwani. The Congress fielded Pankaj Sanghvi, a businessman who had lost to Mahajan narrowly in 1998.
Lalwani, who has never contested an Assembly or Lok Sabha poll, might find it difficult to fit in the boots of veteran Mahajan in Indore where Marathi voters are a rule the roost.
In neighbouring Dewas, the Congress has foxed the BJP by fielding Kabir-singer Prahlad Tipanya who is a reputed international artist. The BJP has fielded former district judge Mahendra Singh Solanki from the seat.
Rahul Gandhi’s close aide Meenakshi Natrajan is taking on BJP’s Suhdir Gupta in Mandsaur. Anti-incumbency against Gupta could be an advantage for Natrajan. However, Gupta is bolstered from the unexpected results of Assembly polls in Mandsaur and Neemuch where the BJP won most of the seats despite the anger over killing of six farmers in police firing in 2017.
Two heavyweights, Nandkumar Singh Chuahan and Arun Yadav, former state chief of the BJP and Congress, respectively, have locked horns in Khandwa. Chauhan is facing anti-incumbency in the region, while Yadav is banking on a meticulous planning and internal fight in the BJP.
However, both the parties have dropped the sitting MPs in Dhar and Khargone.
The BJP has denied tickets to sitting MPs, Savitri Thakur and Subhash Patel, in Dhar and Khargone, respectively. The party has picked former MP Chhatar Singh Darbar in Dhar and Gajendra Patel in Khargone. Both the candidates are facing heat from within the party.
The Congress, while fielding little known Dinesh Girwal from Dhar and Dr Govind Mujalde from Khargone, also found it tough to contain the internal discord.
Disgruntlement was seen in the BJP as well as Congress over the choice of candidates in Ujjain too. The BJP has picked Anil Firodia who lost the Assembly polls, while leaders in the Congress are unhappy over selection of Babulal Malviya.
Meanwhile, Congress veteran tribal leader Kantilal Bhuria who won the by-poll in Jhabua-Ratlam seems comfortable against BJP candidate and Jhabua MLA GS Damore who joined politics ahead of Assembly polls.
The grand old party is also buoyed with reversal of fortune in the region in 2018 Assembly polls. In 2013 Assembly election, the BJP had won 56 of 66 seats. Its tally came down to 21 seats in 2018 with the Congress winning 35 seats, against paltry nine seats in 2013.
Things weren’t too dismal for Congress in the region before Modi wave dominated in 2014. The Congress had won six of the eight seats in 2009 Lok Sabha polls in Malwa-Nimar region. These were Ratlam-Jhabua, Dhar, Khandwa, Mandsaur, Ujjain and Dewas seats. Besides Indore, the BJP could then only win Khargone.
However, this time an apparently anxious BJP has fielded five of its eight sitting MPs.