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High-stakes fight on the cards in Madhya Pradesh after I.N.D.I.A. bloc candidate's nomination junked

Samajwadi Party’s Meera Yadav says that the rejection was a conspiracy. She had the support of the I.N.D.I.A. parties, but now the alliance is putting its heft behind the All India Forward Bloc (AIFB) candidate R B Prajapati.
Last Updated : 20 April 2024, 16:03 IST
Last Updated : 20 April 2024, 16:03 IST

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Satna/Panna/Khajuraho: The BJP says that in Madhya Pradesh, their tally will start at 1 before the polls even begin. That is because president of the party’s state unit, V D Sharma, could have a walkover win after the poll papers of his primary opposition were rejected. This has considerably raised the stakes in neighbouring Satna for both the BJP as well as the Congress, with the grand old party trying to take advantage of the unhappiness of the ruling party once again, choosing four-time MP Ganesh Singh.

In the temple town of Khajuraho, there is no sign that a poll is taking place anywhere in its vicinity. Shopkeeper Neerav Jain says that the I.N.D.I.A. coalition should have prepared better.

Samajwadi Party’s Meera Yadav says that the rejection was a conspiracy. “The returning officer never told us that one more sign is needed on the papers,” says Yadav’s husband Deepak. She had the support of the I.N.D.I.A. parties, but now the alliance is putting its heft behind the All India Forward Bloc (AIFB) candidate R B Prajapati.

Sharma remains unfazed. “The question is now what will be the win margin in Khajuraho,” he said on the sidelines of a campaign on the outskirts of the Panna Tiger Reserve.

As one moves to nearly Satna, the situation changes, with the seat being one of the handful in the state where the Congress is showing with a spirited fight. It’s a strange contest: both the BJP and the Congress candidates faced each other barely a month ago, in the 2023 assembly elections, as Congress’s Siddharth ‘Dabbu’ Kushwaha defeated BJP’s Ganesh Singh, who is the sitting MP from the seat.

Ganesh Singh’s candidature has not been welcomed widely among the BJP cadre or supporters, and many feel that Satna lagged far behind neighbouring Rewa in terms of development. He, however, says the “mudda” (issue) this term is “vikas” (development).

“I have worked for the development of the seat – the villages here have electricity, roads and water; I have even brought an airport to this seat. People will not forget that our party brought Ram Lalla from a jhopdi (hut) to the mandir (temple),” Singh, a long-time aide of BJP president J P Nadda, says.

Satna resident Suresh Goel, who owns a resort in Panna, says that the seat needs more development. “The functional airport here was shut and another one opened in Rewa, there’s no government run post-graduate or engineering college here, but Rewa has a medical college as well an engineering one. Now there is talk of Bhopal-Rewa expressway, why not Satna on the map,” Goel rues.

Sources said that an irate bunch of businessmen, in a closed door meeting with Singh recently, told him about these issues.

Kushwaha, on the other hand, an aide of Kamal Nath, has worked on his rural voter base and is appealing to voters of the Kurmi caste, to which he belongs, in addition to appealing to save democracy. At one point, Hardik Patel had fought for his ticket in assembly elections; Patel is now in the BJP.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi will campaign for Kushwaha in Satna on Sunday. “Our leader Rahul Gandhi has said that we need to save the future of this country, we are not dividing the country on the lines of religion – to look at what Congress has done, BJP just has to look around the country,” Kushwaha asserts.

The region, which sent Arjun Singh to the Union cabinet in 1991, also ensured his loss in 1996. Among the 23 lakh voters in the region, Thakurs, Kurmis and Brahmins play a decisive role.

While Singh and Kushwaha both belong to the OBC community, the BSP is staging an upset by fielding a Brahmin candidate, Narayan Tripathi, who was in the BJP formerly.

Yatindra Singh Sisodia, director of the Madhya Pradesh Institute of Social Science Research, says that the seat represents a “different kind of political battlefield”.

“The Vindhyachal region has been an outlier for the BJP, but in 2023, despite speculations to the contrary, the region voted for the BJP. There does not seem to be a compelling reason to buck that trend this time,” he says.

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Published 20 April 2024, 16:03 IST

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