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MP Assembly Polls: Facing Tough Battle to Return to Power, BJP Fields Three Union Ministers and Four MPs

Kashif Kakvi |
Political analysts believe that when the chances of BJP's return are slim, the party is trying to put its best step forward in the Assembly polls.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves at supporters during BJP's 'Karyakarta Mahakumbh', in Bhopal, Monday, Sept. 25, 2023

Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves at supporters during BJP's 'Karyakarta Mahakumbh', in Bhopal, Monday, Sept. 25, 2023. Image Courtesy: PTI

Bhopal: Hours after the Prime Minister's 'Karyakarta Sammelan' in the state capital on Monday, the Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP] released its second list of 39 candidates for the upcoming Assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh.

The new list has many surprises, from fielding three heavyweight Union ministers and four sitting parliamentarians to dropping the ticket of four-time Sidhi MLA Kedarnath Shukla, whose name surfaced in a urination case which rattled the country. The party replaced Shukla with the sitting Sidhi parliamentarian Riti Pathak.

The three Union ministers are Narendra Singh Tomar [Agriculture Minister], who also heads the BJP state election management committee, Prahlad Singh Patel (MoS, food processing and Jal shakti) and Faggan Singh Kulaste [MoS, Steel and Rural development]. 

Tomar, a parliamentarian from the Morena seat, has been fielded from the Dimni Assembly seat of the Morena district, which the BJP lost in the last two terms. Patel has been given a ticket from the Narsinghpur seat represented by his younger brother and incumbent MLA Jalam Singh Patel. While one of the tallest tribal faces of the BJP, Kulaste was pitted from the Niwas seat [ST].

Four Lok Sabha MPs — Rakesh Singh, a former state BJP chief, Ganesh Singh from Satna, Riti Pathak from Sidhi and Uday Pratap Singh from Gadarwara — will also contest the Assembly elections due in November.

Ganesh Singh and Rakesh Singh are four-time MPs from Satna and Jabalpur parliamentary seats. Rakesh Singh was also state BJP president from August 2014 to February 2020 and was in charge of the party organisation in the last Assembly election.

In Sidhi, where BJP was rattled by the urination scandal, the sitting MLA, Kedarnath Shukla, has not been given the ticket. Pathak, a second-time parliamentarian, defeated Congress stalwart Ajay Singh by a whopping 2.86 lakh votes in 2019. Uday Pratap Singh, a three-time MP from Narmadapuram (Hoshangabad) seat, has been fielded from Gadarwara in Narsinghpur district.

"Without bigger issues, the elections depend on the candidates. Hence, the BJP is trying to field the best candidates they have in the kitty," said Grijashanker Aggrawal, a Bhopal-based political analyst. 

"They are trying to take the best step forward as they got more votes than Congress in 2018 polls but lost the government by just five seats. The party is counting every seat this time."

With the latest list, the ruling party has declared 78 candidates for the 230-member House. Interestingly, out of 78 seats, in the 2018 Assembly polls, the BJP managed to win three seats. The three seats, Sidhi, Narsinghpur and Maihar, the BJP won in 2018, the party has changed all the incumbent candidates. The first list of 39 candidates was released last month. 

Hours after the BJP released the second list, two BJP leaders, Rajesh Mishra from Sidhi and Ratnakar Chaturvedi, resigned. Mishra was associated with the BJP since Jana Sangh and served as Sidhi district president, while Chaturvedi had been president of BJP's youth wing - Bharatiya Janta Yuva Morcha.

The most surprising name that made it to the list is of BJP's national general secretary, Kailash Vijayvargiya, who had announced his retirement from electoral politics. The former Indore mayor and six-time MLA has been fielded from Indore -1 held by Congress MLA Sanjay Shukla, who defeated two-time BJP MLA Sudarshan Gupta in 2018. His name even surprised Vijayvargiya. 

"I was told that the party would assign me an important task which I should fulfil. But I didn't expect the party would ask me to contest Assembly polls," he said to reporters in Indore.

Political analysts believe that when the chances of BJP's return are slim, the party is trying to put its best step forward in the Assembly polls. The only criterion for the ticket selection was winnability. 

"We need heavyweights the most when there are likely chances of defeat," witted Dinesh Gupta, a Madhya Pradesh-based political analyst.

He further said, "Since the BJP didn't have a strong face this time as four-time CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan and his welfare schemes failed to turn the wind in favour of the saffron party, the party is relying on candidates."

The fresh list includes candidates for four Scheduled Caste (SC) and 10 Scheduled Tribe (ST) reserved seats and six women candidates.

In the 2018 polls, the Congress won 114 seats against the BJP’s 109 and the former formed a government under Kamal Nath. It fell in March 2020 after a rebellion by MLAs loyal to Jyotiraditya Scindia, paving the way for Chouhan to return as CM. Following bypolls due to legislators switching sides after the rebellion, the BJP now has 126 seats in the House, while the Congress has 96.

Senior journalist and political expert NK Singh said that Vijayvargiya's statement shows that the Chief Minister and State machinery have no place in decision-making. 

"It's clear that Amit Shah has entirely taken over the charge of the polls."

Reacting to the second list of candidates, the state Congress, which hasn't released the candidates list, said that BJP’s fielding heavyweight leaders is a sign that it fears defeat in the assembly election. 

State Congress President Kamal Nath tweeted, "The world's largest party did not have candidates for the assembly polls. Hence, they are pitting senior leaders, which is a sign of already accepted defeat."

(With PTI inputs)

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