Madhya Pradesh gears towards Vidhan Sabha by-polls in 24 Seats

After the Rajya Sabha election, both the Congress and the BJP have turned their attention to the crucial by-elections to 24 seats in the state Vidhan Sabha. The outcome of these by-elections will decide the fate of the state ministry. Never in the history of the state have such a large number of by-elections been held. MP Vidhan Sabha’s strength is 230. At present, the Congress has 92 members. It requires a total of 116 members to recapture power. Thus to regain majority it should register victory in all the 24 assembly seats which will go to poll.

Looking at the extraordinary hard task ahead, the Congress has initiated preparations for the by-polls, under the overall guidance of Mukul Wasnik, who is now the AICC in-charge, replacing Deepak Babaria. Congress called a meeting of leaders and MLAs at the residence of former chief minister Kamal Nath to chalk out a plan for the by-polls. Nath and Wasnik have deputed a team for every constituency going to by-polls. Every team will be led by one former minister of the erstwhile Congress government and will include three to four sitting MLAs, apart from the local leaders.

Addressing the meeting, Nath said: “Although this is a by-poll, I regard it as the elections to determine the future because it will be a slap in the face of those who brought down a democratically elected government through betrayal and conspiracy. I never saw such a betrayal in the history of democracy.”

“Our former chief minister and PCC chief Kamal Nath has sent strong teams to the constituencies that will go for by-polls. In the interest of democracy, Congress will fight the elections with full preparation and ground work,” state PCC spokesman Durgesh Sharma told reporters.

Sanver seat in Indore is expected to be a tough fight. Minister for water resources, Tulsi Silawat, who won 2018 assembly elections as a Congress candidate, will now be fielded by the BJP. Congress has put former minister and MLA from neighbouring Rau constituency, Jeetu Patwari in-charge of the party’s campaign team in this constituency. Former minister Lakhan Ghangoia will be in-charge of Surkhi, another important seat won in the last elections by Jyotiraditya Scindia’s aide, Govind Singh Rajput. He is now a minister in the Shivraj Singh Chouhan cabinet.

Former minister P C Sharma will be heading the party’s team in Gwalior and another ex-minister Sukhdev Panse will be in-charge of Sanchi. In the Subhasra assembly seat, the party has put senior MLA Ravi Joshi as in-charge. Sources in the party said these teams of former ministers and MLAs have left for the assembly seats where their work is to reconstruct the party organisation from booth level.

Out of 24 assembly seats going for by-poll, 22 have been vacated after Jyotiraditya Scindia followers quit the party. These seats have suffered damage at the organisation level as supporters of the sitting MLAs have also left the party. The first concern for the Congress now is to rebuild the organisation in these constituencies.

Candidate for the polls will be determined from three surveys conducted by PCC chief Kamal Nath. Names will be declared only a few days before filing of nomination, sources in the party said. On the other hand, the BJP has a ready list of candidates because it is under obligation to sponsor all those who after quitting their Vidhan Sabha seats have joined BJP. The Congress on its part has to select candidates for all 24 constituencies.

But the BJP is facing serious problems from those who contested 2018 elections on BJP ticket and were defeated. This poses a peculiar situation and the BJP leadership is finding it difficult to persuade them to reconcile to the new situation.

Meanwhile, the BJP has to face a new problem which they did not anticipate. The problem has cropped up because of cross-voting by one of their legislators. The legislator, Gopilal Jatav voted for Congress candidate Digvijaya Singh in Rajya Sabha elections. The party is planning to punish him. But its state leaders have decided to refer his case to central leadership.

The state BJP unit will send a report to the party central leadership. The report will be sent to BJP’s state in-charge Vinay Sahasrabuddhe and a decision on Jatav will be taken only after that. BJP’s central leadership was cautious about the Rajya Sabha elections and Jatav’s cross-voting has jolted the party. Nevertheless, the state BJP unit has decided not to raise the issue.

Both the chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and home minister Narottam Mishra gave a dressing down to Jatav for his act of omission. He left for his constituency in Guna after that. The assembly by-elections will be held in the Gwalior-Chambal region where Jatav community is dominant. The BJP is scared of taking strong action against Jatav as it may spark anger in his community and have an adverse effect on the election.

The BJP state unit, after discussion with its central leadership, may issue notice to Jatav to end the matter. Jatav has been telling the state party leadership that he cast vote in favour of Digvijaya Singh by mistake. Jatav said he could neither think of leaving the party or of deceiving it.

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