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MP By-polls: High Octane Campaign Concludes, Polling on October 30

By-polls have been necessitated in the Khandwa parliamentary seat after the demise of sitting BJP MP Nandkumar Chauhan, and three assembly seats that fell vacant after the demise of sitting MLAs.
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Bhopal: Over 26 lakh voters are going to exercise their franchise for by-polls in three assembly and one parliamentary seat on October 30, with the high-decibel campaign ending on Wednesday.

While a total of 48 candidates are in the poll fray on these four seats, the by-polls are expected to be a straight contest between ruling BJP and the opposition Congress. The results will be declared on November 2, according to the Election Commission.

In three assembly seats where the by-polls are scheduled are Jobat (2.75 lakh voters) in Alirajpur district, Raigaon (2.07 lakh voters) in Satna and Prithvipur (1.98 lakh voters) in Niwari district. A by-poll has also been necessitated in the Khandwa parliamentary seat which covers Khandwa and Burhanpur districts (19.68 lakh voters) after the demise of sitting BJP MP Nandkumar Chauhan. The three assembly seats fell vacant after the demise of sitting MLAs.

Of these four constituencies, two seats, including the Khandwa Lok Sabha constituency, were held by the BJP while the remaining two seats were represented by Congress MLAs.

As per the poll schedule, the silence period is 72 hours before the polling ends - 6 PM on October 30. Over 26.50 lakh voters are eligible to exercise their franchise for these four seats, where 3,944 polling booths are being set up. Of these, 865 booths are declared sensitive while 361 will be under the surveillance of CCTV cameras, the officials said.

They added that two ballot units will be deployed at each booth in Khandwa and Raigaon as the number of candidates exceeds 15. Overall, 10,027 ballot machines, including those kept in the reserve, will be used.

THE CANDIDATES

The BJP which has been in power in Madhya Pradesh since 2003 has given tickets to two defectors - one from Congress and another from Samajwadi Party.

In Jobat, the saffron party has given the ticket to two-term Congress MLA Sulochna Rawat, who defected two days before the announcement of her candidature, while Congress has shown trust on Mahesh Patel, Alirajpur district Congress president and son of former MLA late Vasta Patel.

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In the Prithvipur assembly seat, BJP chose an ex-Samajwadi Party leader Sishupal Singh Yadav who lost the 2018 assembly election to Congress’s Brijendra Singh Rathore and secured the second position. The Congress has pitted Nitendra Singh Rathore, son of former sitting MLA who died due to COVID-19 complications. The junior Rathore is a hotel management graduate who runs the best hotels in Orchha and is making his debut in politics after his father’s demise.

In Raigon, BJP has pitted Pratima Bagri, an outsider candidate and relative of BJP MLA Jugal Kishore Bagri who died due to old age. Congress has chosen Kalpana Verma, a zilla panchayat member. Verma who had lost to Jugal Kishore Bagri in 2018 with a margin of 18,000 votes, however, is considered a strong candidate and has remained active despite losing on the seat. 

In Khandwa parliamentary seat, the BJP has given the ticket to Gyaneswar Patil, a lesser-known leader against Congress’s three-term MLA Rajnaryan Singh Purni. After the demise of sitting MP and former State BJP President Nandkumar Chauhan due to COVID-19 complications, the senior party leaders considered Chauhan’s elder son Harshwardhan Chauhan along with former State minister Archana Chitnis as frontrunners in the race for the ticket.

Subsequently, Arun Yadav, former union minister, and former Congress state president who lost the 2019 election to Nandkumar Chauhan was considered as an obvious candidate for the Khandwa seat. Many party leaders had congratulated Yadav with his name being declared as a mere formality. However, Yadav withdrew his name at the last minute citing personal reasons after he was isolated by both Kamal Nath and Digvijay Singh. The party has finally given its ticket to Rajnarayan Purni, a three-term MLA from Khandwa.  

CAMPAIGN: BJP's 130 RALLIES VERSUS CONGRESS’S 70

In a high-octane campaign, union ministers Prahlad Patel, Narendra Singh Tomar, Jyotiraditya Scindia and former union minister Uma Bharti canvassed for the nominees of BJP. At the state level, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and the state BJP chief VD Sharma led the campaign trail.

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In the heat of campaigning, Congress MLA from Badwaha assembly seat Sachin Birla joined the BJP. Badwaha is a part of the Khandwa Lok Sabha constituency.

The by-polls which are considered as a litmus test for the chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, saw him lead 37 rallies as the main poll campaigner. Besides him, the saffron party has deployed six union ministers including Narendra Singh Tomar and Jyotiraditya Scindia and over 100 MLAs on poll duty.

The BJP has held over 130 rallies including 19 led by state president VD Sharma and 20 led by union ministers. In comparison, Congress has held over 70 rallies with 11 being led by Kamal Nath.

Broadly, it was a relatively low-key election campaign by Congress. Apart from former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath, Rajya Sabha MP Digvijaya Singh, and Arun Yadav, no other prominent leader participated in the campaigning except Rajasthan's former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot who addressed a couple of rallies on Wednesday.

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Congress mainly raised the issue of the shortage of fertilisers, miss management in the COVID-19 pandemic and accused the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government of stopping the farm loan waiver scheme launched by the previous Kamal Nath-led government. Nath had highlighted how farmers were queuing up at cooperative centres for getting fertiliser bags with the police baton charging them at some places, said Bhupendra Gupta, vice president, state Congress media in-charge.

"The issue of the common man was the main poll issue of the Congress party. On many occasions, Kamal Nath has challenged the four-time chief minister by comparing his work with 15-month of Congress rule," said Gupta.

Referring to the Congress defectors, he further said, "The BJP which had given a call for a ‘Congress Mukt Bharat’ is itself becoming a ‘Congress Yukt’ party. The party poached 27 Congress MLAs in last two years and the recent candidate from the Jobat assembly seat is also former Congress MLA and Prithivpur's candidate was poached from SP".

While senior BJP Spokesperson Durgesh Keshwani argued that instead of raising local and people's issues, Congress only criticised BJP and CM Chouhan in poll rallies. “The BJP,” Keshwani added, “is a party of grass-root workers which has urged the voters to support CM Shivraj in the state and Modi in the centre.”

With inputs from PTI

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