Acid test of Madhya Pradesh CM Kamal Nath starts
New Delhi, April 29: Madhya Pradesh is also one of the nine states that voted in the fourth phase of on-going Lok Sabha polls on Monday.
Seventy-two parliamentary constituencies of Bihar, Jharkhand, Jammu and Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal voted to decide the fate of 961 candidates.
The Election Commission of India (ECI) set up over 1.40 lakh polling booths to conduct elections.
Six parliamentary constituencies of Madhya Pradesh- - Sidhi, Shahdol, Jabalpur, Mandla, Balaghat, and Chhindwara- went into polls. Voting for the remaining 23 Lok Sabha seats will be conducted in fifth, sixth and seventh phases.
With this, the acid test of Chief Minister Kamal Nath has started as he has assured Congress President Rahul Gandhi to improve the party's tally in the state. Congress could manage to win only two seats in the state in 2014 general elections, which included Chhindwara.
Apart from Chhindwara, rest of five seats that voted on Monday are with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Chhindwara is the seat that is the bastion of Kamal Nath who has won the seat nine times. As Kamal Nath has become Chief Minister, his son Nakul Nath is making an entry into politics by contesting as a Congress candidate from Chhindwara Lok Sabha.
The BJP fielded former MLA Nathan Shah Kavreti against Nakul Nath and local leader and businessman Vivek Sahu against Kamal Nath, who contested an assembly election for the first time in his political career of over four decades. Kamal Nath contested from Chhindwara assembly seat, voting for which was conducted simultaneously with the Lok Sabha polls. Despite Narendra Modi wave, Kamal Nath had won Chhindwara seat in 2014.
Kamal Nath, 72, left no stone unturned to ensure a handsome win for his son. Despite working as a Chief Minister from a camp office near his residence in Chhindwara city, he used to hold six to seven rallies and meetings every day.
During the 2018 Assembly elections, the Congress won all seven assembly segments of Chhindwara Lok Sabha seat. These assembly seats are Junnardeo, Amarwara, Chorai, Saunsar, Chhindwara, Parasia and Pandhurna.
Since Kamal Nath knows that his job will not be over by winning assembly seat for himself and Lok Sabha seat for his son, therefore he has extended all kind of support to the Congress candidates contesting from Madhya Pradesh.
The BJP has fielded its state chief Rakesh Singh from Jabalpur, who has made a hat trick by winning the seat in 2004, 2009, and 2014.
Singh locked horns with the Congress candidate Vivek Tankha, who is a Supreme Court lawyer and Rajya Sabha MP. In 2014, Tankha was defeated by Rakesh Singh.
Tankha has lived in Jabalpur most of his life in Jabalpur and enjoys goodwill. His father was a high court judge.
There are around 21 lakh voters in Jabalpur, and out of them 2.5 lakh are Christians, three lakh Muslims, three lakh Brahmins and some ten lakh are SC/ST and OBC, comprising various sub-castes.
A source from Jabalpur tells One India that the Congress is sure about getting votes of Christians, Muslims and SCs/STs and therefore its main focus remained on wooing strong Brahmin voter base.
"In order to attract Brahmin voters, the Congress presented Tankha as a Kashmiri Brahmin. Tankha supporters also told voters during the campaign about his close relationship with Chief Minister Kamal Nath and how it can be beneficial for them," says the source.
Kamal Nath also declared while campaigning for Tankha that "Madhya Pradesh ki sarkar Bhopal se nahi Jabalpur se chalegi" (Madhya Pradesh Government won't operate from Bhopal but from Jabalpur).
In Sidhi, the fate of Ajay Singh, the son of late senior Congress leader Arjun Singh, and sitting MP Riti Pathhak has been locked in the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).
According to the sources, Ajay Singh used all his might and resources to win the election as it will decide his political future. For, he lost last assembly election from Churhat seat despite being the Leader of Opposition in Madhya Pradesh Assembly.
He has represented the Churhat assembly seat in Sidhi district six times in the past.
In Shahdol, there was a direct fight between the BJP and the Congress.
In order to check anti-incumbency, the BJP dropped its sitting MP Gyan Singh and fielded Himadri Singh, who has bid adieu to the Congress. In 2016 bye-election, Gyan Singh had defeated Himadri Singh.
In the 2018 Assembly elections, both Congress and BJP won four seats each which fall under this parliamentary constituency.
The BJP has won Balaghat Lok Sabha constituency five times in a row from 1998. Another interesting strategy of the party is that it never repeats its sitting MP in Balaghat. However, this time when BJP denied ticket to sitting MP Bodh Singh Bhagat and he filed nomination as an Independent that has made road bumpy for BJP candidate Dhal Singh Bisen, who is pitted against Congress candidate Madhu Bhagat.
In Balaghat, the prestige of ex-Union Minister Faggan Singh Kulaste is at stake as he has won the seat five times since 1996. His opponent and Congress candidate Kamal Maravi is also an influential leader in the region. Chief Minister Kamal Nath has pinned high hopes on this seat as the Congress had won six out of the eight assembly segments under Mandla in 2018 state elections. The assembly segments under Mandla are Shahpura, Dindori, Bichhiya, Niwas, Mandla, Keolari, Lakhnadon and Gotegaon.