Retaining the Ratlam-Jhabua Lok Sabha and Dewas Assembly seats in the bye-elections to be held on Saturday will be crucial for BJP after its humiliating defeat in Bihar polls, even as the Congress is leaving no stone unturned to give the saffron party a tough fight.
BJP, relying more on ‘sympathy wave’, has fielded Petlawad MLA Nirmala Bhuria, daughter of Dileep Singh Bhuria whose death necessitated the bye-election to Ratlam seat.
In Dewas Assembly seat, the party has given ticket to Gayatri Raje Puar, the widow of erstwhile ruler of Dewas Tukoji Rao Puar, the sitting BJP MLA who died in June.
On the other side, the Congress has put up a united face and is banking on former Union minister Kantilal Bhuria to reclaim the Ratlam seat from BJP, and young leader Jaiprakash Shastri in Dewas.
The bypolls will be held tomorrow while the counting will take place on November 24.
The drubbing in the recent Bihar Assembly elections, and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s quota review remarks appeared to have made BJP jittery, forcing Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan to strongly contend that till the time he is there, there will be no end to reservation.
“As long as Narendra Modi is Prime Minister and I am Chief Minister, no one (‘koi mai ka laal’) can end reservation,” Chouhan recently said while addressing meetings at Bori and Baledi villages while campaigning for the party candidates in the bypolls.
Chouhan said the Congress has distorted the statement of RSS chief over reservation and is playing politics over it.
Sensing an opportunity in the bypoll, the otherwise divided Congress party in the state has tried to project unity with all senior leaders, including General Secretary Digvijay Singh, former Union minister Kamal Nath and party’s chief whip in the Lok Sabha Jyotiraditya Scindia and state unit chief Arun Yadav campaigning vigorously for Kantilal Bhuria.
Digvijay, who is also the former Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, expressed confidence that the Congress will perform better in both the constituencies.
“In the bypolls, people normally vote on local issues and we are hopeful that Congress will get good results in it,” he said.
In an effort to retain both the seats, BJP, besides banking on its Chief Minister’s charisma, also deployed Union minister Narendra Singh Tomar, party’s national vice president and in-charge of state unit Vinay Sahastrbuddhe, national General Secretary Kailash Vijaywargiya, state BJP president Nandkumar Singh Chouhan and a number of state Cabinet ministers, for the campaigning.
Though the main contest is between BJP and Congress in Ratlam seat, the JD(U), buoyed by the success of the grand alliance in Bihar, tried to put up a similar front by roping-in CPI, CPM, Gondwana Gantantra Party and Bahujan Sangarsh Dal in the state to provide an alternative.
JD(U) president Sharad Yadav also campaigned for alliance candidate Vijay Haari by spending two days in the tribal constituency.
During the last Lok Sabha election, Kantilal Bhuria lost to Dilip Singh Bhuria, a former Congressman who switched over to BJP during the ‘Modi wave’ in 2014.
When Dilip was in Congress, he won the Lok Sabha polls from the constituency, earlier known as Jhabua seat, five times consecutively from 1980 to 1996. Dilip won the seat last year, but his death in June this year necessitated the bypoll.
Meanwhile, the Congress, which won the polls from the seat since 1951, except in 1971, 1977 and 2014, is likely to have a fair chance to win it back again.
In 2014, the BJP won the polls from Ratlam-Jhabua seat by a margin of 1,08,452 votes.
A total of eight candidates are in fray for the bypoll to Ratlam where 17,42,628 will exercise their right to franchise.