Test Ahead of 2023 Elections? MP Gears Up for Another Round of By-Polls

An otherwise politically stable and calm Madhya Pradesh had been charged up, especially after a keenly contested 2018 Assembly polls when the State after so many years saw a split mandate with the Congress party returning to power with a razor thin majority on the Bharatiya Janata Party.

After a year of intense political bickering, the State saw crafty Shivraj Singh Chouhan uprooting the 15-month-old Kamal Nath government, followed by a bitter and spiteful 28 Assembly by-polls, where the fight virtually become a personal battle between the Congress party and Jyotiraditya Scindia and company.

Carrying a grudge against Scindia and his men for ditching them, Congress senior leaders savagely ran the campaign with BJP leaders also proving a match for them. However, the Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led BJP edged out the spirited Congress party 19-9.

The mainstream political rivals had locked horns in yet another political battle early this year in Damoh as former Congress MLA Rahul Lodhi, who once reposed utmost faith had joined BJP during the fag end of the political drama in year 2020. As he sought re-nomination from a relatively backward constituency in Bundelkhand, the Congress party yet again swiped ‘gaddar and bikau’ cards against him.

In an inconsequential yet super intense fight, Congress party’s Ajay Tandon edged out turncoat Rahil Lodhi as the BJP was left as a divided house with former finance minister Jayant Malaiya and his son Siddharth bearing the charges of being the ‘traitors.’

The by-polls, however, seem an unending affair especially in the present tenure of the Assembly as three by-polls are lined up apart from a bypoll for the Lok Sabha in Khandwa.

The Assembly seats have fallen vacant due to the demise of the MLAs including Jugul Kishore Bagri (Raigaon), Brijendra Pratap Singh (Prthvipur) and Kalavati Bhuria (Jobat). The Khandwa seat had gone vacant after the demise of former BJP State head Nandkumar Singh Chauhan.

For the Congress, former union minister Arun Yadav has already started preparing for the by-poll but saw a twist in the tale days ago when PCC chief Kamal Nath went public saying Yadav is yet to speak to him expressing eagerness on his candidature.

It was amply clear that Nath conveyed a message to Yadav that mere an assurance from the party top brass won’t be sufficient for him to claim the ticket, said a political analyst from Bhopal.

The by-polls don’t have any significant bearing on the majority of the BJP government but these polls are dubbed as a penultimate clash between the rival parties ahead of the mega clash in year 2023.

As always is the case, both the BJP and the Congress party are planning to cash in on the sympathy wave and are likely to place bets on the kids of the departed leaders in the by-polls. However, there are other contenders in both the parties who aren’t eager to let these plans succeed without a murmur.

For the Khandwa by-poll, late Chauhan’s son, Harshwardhan Singh is the frontrunner, while others like Archana Chitnis and former Indore Mayor Krishna Murari Moghe too are keen to give a shot in mainstream politics. Both the senior leaders are away from active politics for a while.

The discomfort also stretches to the BJP-held Assembly seat Raigaon, where late MLA Jugal Kishore Bagri’s son Pushpraj is seen as a prominent claimant for the ticket. Senior BJP leader Gopal Bhargav who himself was involved in an ugly spat with the party high command over a ticket to his son Abhishek in the by-poll in 2019 Lok Sabha elections, has openly criticised the idea of fielding departed leader’s kids saying ‘they can’t guarantee a win every time in a by-poll’.

However, the BJP is yet to name anyone for the seat.

For the Congress, which held Prithvipur and Jobat seats, playing the tried and tested emotional card. At Prithvipur, the party is eager to field late MLA Brijendra Singh Rathore’s son Nitin, while it could be MP Youth Congress president Vikrant Bhuria on whom the grand old party could pace the bet in Jobat seat which has fallen vacant due to the demise of Vikrant Bhuria’s cousin Kalavati.

Though there are couple of claimants as well but Dr Bhuria being the head of the youth wing and being the son of former union minister Kantilal Bhuria, emerges as the obvious choice for the party, said a leader from the Congress party.

Congress MLA Lakhan Ghanghoria on the matter said that the party is still pondering over candidatures for the bypolls and it could well be those who lost immediate kin and could be pushed into the by-poll fray, he added.

The Election Commission of India is yet to announce the schedule for the Assembly polls but both the mainstream parties are abuzz with the pre-poll activities.

Kamal Nath already had said that the party is carrying out surveys for shortlisting candidates claiming he is flooded with calls from those willing to contest and also those who are voluntarily withdrawing from the ticket claims. Nath also has sacked three districts’ heads of Panna, Bhind and Vidisha as part of the organisational rejig.

A comparatively better organised BJP is also active in the poll mode and State-in-charge Muralidhar Rao is reaching Bhopal on July 25. Ahead of the by-poll meeting to take place on July 25 in the presence of Rao, Shivraj Singh Chouhan met party Co-Organisational General Secretary Shiv Prakash at the BJP head office on Friday.

Having lost the Damoh by-polls recently, the BJP organisation is taking these upcoming bypolls as a serious affair, said a senior BJP leader of Bhopal who did not wish to be named. In charge ministers have been asked to make hectic tours of the constituencies concerned.

To take along the party as a united unit to by-polls, the organisation has chalked out plans to placate Jyotiraditya Scindia supporters by accommodating them in boards and corporations. Former MLAs who lost in by-polls last year including Imarti Devi, Munalal Goyal, Aidal Singh Kansana and Girraj Dandotia, are also expected to be rehabilitated in these political appointments.

Other Scindia supporters including Jaspal Singh Jajji, Pankaj Chaturvedi, Raksha Sironia and Ranveer Jatav could also be rewarded with political appointments shortly, said sources.

However, for the Congress party, by-polls could well be an opportunity for sounding alarm bells for the ruling BJP ahead of mega clash in year 2023.

After the demise of the MLAs in three seats, the BJP had 125 MLAs in the Assembly of 230 while the Congress party has 98 seats after the win in Damoh by-poll. Besides, there are seven independents in the Assembly.

(Inputs from Anurag Shrivastava)

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