Skip to main content
xYOU DESERVE INDEPENDENT, CRITICAL MEDIA. We want readers like you. Support independent critical media.

MP: A Vyapam Whistleblower is Giving Tough Fight to State’s Richest MLA

Congress candidate Paras Saklecha is campaigning on motorcycles while his rival, MP's richest MLA, canvasses in a convoy of expensive cars.
Madhya Pradesh elections

Ratlam: At 8:45 p.m, a bike appears at Ratlam's busy Malviya Nagar Market area carrying Congress' candidate from Ratlam Assembly seat Paras Saklecha riding pillion. He was off to address a public gathering of over 2,000 people here after the day-long Jansampark Abhiyan.  

As Saklecha alighted from the bike moving toward the stage, a group of people begun jostling to shake hands with him and the scattered crowd filled up the empty chairs. When he took the mike at 9:30 p.m, Australian cricketer Glenn Maxwell's inning against Afghanistan [November 7] at World Cup was keeping the viewers glued to the mobile screen, but the crowd was attentive, keeping pin drop silence, to hear the candidate.

Saklecha is popular because he became Ratlam Mayor as well as independent MLA in 2008, trouncing Bharatiya Janata Party’s Himmat Kothari, the former Home Minister of Madhya Pradesh. Saklecha’s role in exposing the Vyapam scam and in protesting the 2017 Mandsaur police firing and his understanding of the government are notable and have earned  him respect among the public. This is why people from remote areas had turned up to listen to him. 

The Congress candidate is contesting against Madhya Pradesh's richest MLA and BJP candidate from Ratlam city, Chetan Kashyap, a businessman with a declared income of Rs 296 crore and for whom Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a rally on November 4, in Ratlam.  

Madhya Pradesh elections

In the November 7 rally, Saklecha took on his opponent over unfulfilled promises, lying over unemployment data, underdevelopment of the city, pathetic roads and others with his wit and whimsy.  

To draw public attention to the BJP candidate's unfulfilled promise of supplying tap water a decade ago, Saklecha recited poet Rahat Indori's well known lines, "Jhut se, Sach se, jisse bhi ho yari rakhe, aap apni takreer jari rakhe. baat mann ki kare, ya watan ki kare, jo bhi kare, awaaz bhari rakhe." (gist—continue to raise your voices loud and clear). 

The audience clapped and whistled.

Saklecha said a billboard was put up on the highway saying that the BJP government brought in an investment of over Rs 75,000 crore and gave employment to 1.72 lakh people. “It was taken down only after I exposed it. He wanted to woo voters with hoax and lies," he said. 

Taking on Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan over the “much-hyped” Ladli Behna Yojana, he said, "When Chief Minister Chouhan noticed that he might be kicked out in this election after failing the state for 15 years, he came with Ladli Behna Scheme promising Rs 1,500 to every woman but, later reduced it to Rs 1,000. He raised the amount to Rs 1,250 and now promises to increase it to Rs 3,000. When he is not going to become chief minister again for sure, how will he increase it to Rs 3,000?"   

Saklecha reiterated Congress' promise of reviving the old pension scheme, filling vacant government posts, monthly stipend of Rs 500 to 1,500 to school students, subsidised LPG and others. "Our government will give Rs 60,000 to the women and children of a family a year," he promised.

The Congress candidate, who runs a free coaching centre for youths preparing for competitive examinations, announced a 10-point agenda for the development of the city apart from the party manifesto. 

Developing an educational hub, multi-layer parking in the old city, proper repairing of roads, developing gold fairs and workshops to promote gold business, for which Ratlam is known are some of his promises.    

Taking on the BJP candidate's promise to make Ratlam a metro city, he said, "The BJP leader promises to make Ratlam a metro city. But to become a metro, the population of the city should be 1 crore. But the population of the city is over three lakh, according to 2011 census. The BJP leader should explain, how he would do it? Kahan se laayenge 97 lakh log? Batao, aap logo ko bahut mehnat karni padegi?" (From where will ge get 97 lakh people?) 

The audience burst into laughter.

He also challenged the BJP candidate for an open debate.  

The rally, however, ended abruptly as the clock ticked 10 p.m, the Election Commission's time to end the poll campaign.  

"He spoke to the point. The development of the city is overdue. The roads and water system needs to be fixed," Prakash Jain, one among the audience was heard telling his friend Rais Khan as the crowd dispersed. "The Rs 200 crore scheme to lay down drainage pipeline is marred with corruption," he added. 

Not just voters, Saklecha is also popular in the Opposition camp but his image got a major dent when his Assembly membership was disqualified by the court in 2013. 

Requesting anonymity, a BJP leader said, "The only thing which goes against him is that he switched many parties over the years and the High Court's decision has dented his image."

Saklecha became a member of the Assembly in 2008 defeating former minister and BJP leader Himmat Kothari by a margin of 31,000 votes. 

Kothari filed a petition with the High Court under Section 100 (1) of Representation of the People Act 1951, accusing Saklecha of using corrupt practices in the polls. 

Declaring his candidature as ‘zero’, the Madhya Pradesh High Court, on April 2013, set aside his election holding him guilty of corrupt practices in elections under the Representation of the People Act 1951, just six months before the completion of his five-year term in the legislative Assembly. 

Later, Saklecha got relief in June 2013 when the Supreme Court restored his Assembly membership, but by then the HC order had dented his image.  

Girija Shanker Upadhyay, another member of the audience, said, "It's a tough fight unlike previous elections. Saklecha was the last person who succeeded in defeating BJP in the past 30 years." 

"This time it's a fight between Laxmi ji [goddess of money] and Saraswati ji [goddess of education]. Let's see who wins," he added.

Despite repeated attempts, Kashyap was unreachable. He won the past two elections -- 2013 and 2018 -- with a margin of over 40,000 votes and is eyeing a big victory for the third time.

With over 2.13 lakh voters, dominated by upper caste, Muslim and Jain voters, Ratlam is going to polls on November 17 and the results will be declared on December 3, 2023.

Get the latest reports & analysis with people's perspective on Protests, movements & deep analytical videos, discussions of the current affairs in your Telegram app. Subscribe to NewsClick's Telegram channel & get Real-Time updates on stories, as they get published on our website.

Subscribe Newsclick On Telegram