Madhya Pradesh: Political parties in no hurry to announce final list of candidates

The nominations in Madhya Pradesh close on April 9 but political parties in the state have not as yet announced their final list of candidates

Madhya Pradesh: Political parties in no hurry to announce final list of candidates

Chandrakant Naidu

Even as nominations opened for the first phase of polling on Tuesday, the front-runners, Congress and BJP, appeared in no hurry to announce their final lists of candidates for Madhya Pradesh in Lok Sabha elections. The CEC that met in Delhi made no announcement about the tickets heightening the expectancy among party workers and media.

The first phase covers six seats of Sidhi, Shahdol Jabalpur, Mandla, Balaghat and Chhindwara in the Mahakoshal region of the state. The nominations close on April 9 and scrutiny is due on April 10 while polling is slated for April 29. Congress has yet to name its candidates for Sidhi, Chhindwara, Jabalapur and Mandla. The party is likely to leave the Dhar seat to be contested by ally Jai Adivasi Yuva Sangathan (JAYS).

Selection of candidates has turned into a battle of attrition for both parties. Nine days since they released their first lists the two parties have been sweating it out to finalise nominees for all 29 seats. The BJP holds 26 seats while Congress has three in the outgoing House. So far, the BJP has finalised 18 seats. It had dropped five sitting members in its first list for 15 seats on March 24 the second list shows it has denied tickets to two more.

BJP's Balaghat, Mandsaur, Shahdol, Rajgarh, Ujjain and Khargone candidates are facing stiff opposition from within the party. The party is under intense pressure to replace them.

Supporters of Gyan Singh, sitting MP from Shahdol, have asked him to contest as Independent after he was replaced with Himadri Singh who joined BJP last fortnight. Himadri, daughter of former Congress veterans Dalbir Singh and Rajesh Nandini Singh was in contention for the Congress ticket too. If protests from Gyan Singh force the party to rethink, Himadri would be left stranded.

Suspense persists on the fate of Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan who has represented Indore eight times in the past and the party now wants her to retire for having crossed 75-year age barrier. The decision on Indore is kept in abeyance. Former state minister Kailash Vijayavargiya and Sumitra Mahajan are arch rivals in Indore. While a much younger Vijayavargiya is a part of the coterie around the party’s central leadership Mahajan has apparently lost the favour of Modi-Shah duo. The party proposes to pick a candidate of Mahajan’s choice and would try to placate her by turning the announcement into an event. Party sources say the choice may fall on Malini Gaur, an MLA from Indore.

The BJP has yet to declare the names of candidates on Bhopal, Indore, Gwalior, Chhindwara, Khajuraho, Dewas, Dhar, Vidisha, Sagar, Ratlam and Guna seats.

Protests turned violent after BJP declared candidates for three constituencies dropping two sitting MPs. On Friday, the party dropped sitting MPs Bodh Singh Bhagat (Balaghat) and Subhash Patel (Khargone) and nominated Dhal Singh Bisen and Gajendra Patel from Khargone instead. Bhagat’s supporters had locked the party office in protest. Former state minister Gaurishankar Bisen who represented Balaghat in the assembly has had violent conflicts with Bhagat in the past. Gaurishankar has supported the new nominee Dhal Singh Bisen whose supporters finally broke into the party office.

The party would be hard put to placate Bhagat. The other dissident Anup Mishra who was denied ticket from Morena is still in touch with Congress leadership. If he switches to Congress, he might be fielded from Gwalior. RSS veteran Vishnu Dutt Sharma, who was to have been fielded from Bhopal is likely to be moved to Morena.

The party has retained sitting MP Rodmal Nagar from Rajgarh, the home turf of former chief minister Digvijaya Singh who was keen to join the fray here. In 2014 Nagar had breached the family bastion of Rajgarh to beat Singh loyalist Narayan Singh Amlave.

By getting Digvijaya Singh to contest from Bhopal the Congress has been able to create self-doubts among the BJP leaders. The BJP has not been able to finalise its candidate for the seat after his nomination. There were indications that former chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan could be asked to contest from Bhopal. Chouhan, however, is reluctant and wants to contest from Vidisha which he has represented for long. With External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj the sitting MP having declined to contest the seat held by BJP for three decades is up for grabs by the Congress. The other option for the BJP is to shift former PCC chief Narendra Singh Tomar, a Thakur, to Bhopal. Tomar, who represents Gwalior at present has already been asked to move to Morena. The new situation apparently demands a new solution.

The Congress central election committee is scheduled to meet on Tuesday to finalise the list of 20 remaining candidates. At least another 12 candidates may be announced on Tuesday.

Of the 20 seats the names for Chhindwara, Sidhi and Jabalpur are said to have been finalised. Chief Minister Kamal Nath’s son Nakul Nath is likely to replace him for Chhindwara Lok Sabha seat. Kamal Nath is to be nominated for the Chhindwara assembly seat on Tuesday. Party sources say former leader of the Opposition in the assembly, Ajay Singh and former Additional Solicitor General of India Vivek Tankha may contest the Sidhi and Jabalpur seats. The BJP has already fielded its state unit president Rakesh Singh at Jabalpur. Another certainty seems to be Ramkrishna Kusmaria, the new acquisition from BJP who may be fielded from Damoh which the Congress has not won for the past three decades.

The BJP is also expected to announce its candidate on Tuesday to take on Kamal Nath for assembly byelection.

The Congress has so far declared its candidates in Betul, Khajuraho, Tikamgarh, Balaghat, Hoshangabad, Shahdol, Bhopal, Mandsaur, Ratlam seats.

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