By L S Herdenia
BHOPAL: There are definite indications that selection of candidates for Lok Sabha polls is going to be herculean task both for the Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress. Comparatively it will be more difficult task for the BJP. It appears that because of adverse reports about their performance the BJP may be forced to drop 40 percent of sitting MPs. Out of the total 29 seats in the state BJP’s strength is 26.
There are certain other factors which will influence the selection of candidates. Among them most important is the demand by such party men for Lok Sabha tickets who were defeated in Assembly elections. Such party men include former Ministers also. They are Jayant Mallaya, who lost his traditional Damoh seat and now seeking Sagar Lok Sabha seat, Archana Chitnis, who lost Burhanpur Vidhan Sabha constituency and desires to contest from Khandwa Lok Sabha Seat, Antar Singh Arya who lost form Sendhwa, wants to be sponsored from Khargone Lok Sabha Constituency.
Former Minister Lal Singh Arya is trying for ticket from Bhind. Arya lost assembly elections from Gohad. Sitting MP Bhagirth Prasad may not get ticket this time due to resentment in public against him. There are rumours that Prasad may quit BJP and again join Congress. Arya will not get ticket because his name figures as an accused in a murder case and has been denied bail.
Selection of candidates has also become difficult because several veterans have also announced that they are in the race. They include former Chief Minister Babulal Gaur, and former Finance Minister Raghavji. Gaur is more then 86 years old and wants to contest. His daughter-in-law Krishna Gaur has been elected to the Vidhan Sabha. Gaur and former Minister Uma Shankar Gupta have publicly demanded that no outsider should be sponsored for the Lok Sabha polls.
Congress is also facing the difficulty posed by such party men who lost the November Vidhan Sabha election but want to contest for the Lok Sabha. They include Ajay Singh and Rajendra Singh. Ajay Singh was the leader of the opposition and Rajendra Singh was the deputy speaker of Assembly. Both lost from their traditional seats in Vindhya region. In fact Vindhya was the only region of the state where the Congress performance was the worst in comparison to other regions. Therefore the Congress may not take the risk of sponsoring defeated party men in the Lok Sabha elections.
Why did the electorate of Vindhya vote against Congress despite anti-incumbency against the BJP government remains a riddle even as Congress begins the exercise to select candidates for LS polls. Ajay Singh, who led the party campaign in the region, had expected to win 22 of the 30 assembly seats. He is crestfallen after the results, but doesn’t blame the party or himself or the voter. Instead, he attributes the rout to the ‘manipulative tactics of BJP, carried out in collusion with the administration”.
“Why is that the maximum VVPAT machines that developed snag on the day of voting were from the Vindhya region? I wish to caution the state Congress leadership that what BJP has done in Vindhya today they may be repeated in other regions tomorrow”.
Is the truth as simple? Perhaps not, even his closest aides admit “Congress gave tickets to four former BSP leaders which resulted in substantial upper caste votes shifting away from the party. The party had expected BSP votes to come their way by fielding former BSP leaders like Siddartha Kushwaha, Babith Saket, Vidyavati Patel and Renu Shah, that didn’t happen” said a close aide of Ajay Singh, requesting not to be named.
He insists it was not Ajay Singhs’s decision “Ajay Singh wished to bridge Brahmin-Thakur divide in the region. That’s why he was promoting leaders like Neelansh Chaturvedi and Abhay Mishra” he said. Congress leaders feel that upper casts, who voted for the party in Gwalior-Chambal region, went against it in Vindhya.
Political observers feel that the Vindhya equation changed because BSP, which is a potent force in the region, suffered erosion in its vote base to BJP due to welfare schemes of the Shivraj and Modi governments. “For the past 15 years BSP has been the third powerful block in the region with a vote share of 18-25%” he said
Meanwhile two important developments have happened in the state. Out of the two one is helpful to the Congress and the other may cause damage to the Congress. The helpful development relates to the massive desertion of leaders from the BSP to the Congress. Those who left the BJP and joined the Congress include Pradeep Ahirwar, state BSP President, former MP Dev Raj Singh, Devdutt Soni, leader of the BSP legislature party, Satya Prakash Jadhav, Ravindra Kumar Patel, Manoj Saraf, Kamal Prasad, Dr. Vinod Rai, and Ram Sevak Damle, all important office bearers and also several others. Mass desertion has obviously weakened bargaining power of the BSP. Those who left BSP said that the Congress alone has the capacity to take care of the interests of “Bahujah’.
The other development is the banner of revolt raised by tribal MLA Hiralal Alawa. Sidelined by the Congress after the assembly elections, Alawa who won Manawar assembly seat for the Congress has threatened to prop up independent tribal candidates and back them in Lok Sabha elections. Denied a cabinet berth, he is very upset. Alawa, who was a key leader of Jay Adivasi Yuva Shakti (JAYS) before joining Congress ahead of the assembly polls, said his demands for a tribal Chief Minister and more tribal welfare schemes were “stonewalled by Congress after it came to power”.
Alawa’s joining Congress drew tribal votes helping the party make inroads in the saffron stronghold of Malwa-Nimar region and raise its tally from 9 to a whopping 35 seats. JAYS has a good hold in the tribal belt, with Alawa, a former AIIMS doctor, projected a young leader with strong mass appeal. Alawa declared his intention to distance himself from the party and back tribal candidates belonging to JAYS if Congress doesn’t field them in tribal belts. If not tackled properly Alawas’s revolt may cause severe damage to the Congress in the tribal belt of the state. (IPA Service)