Can Congress once again breach BJP's Mandsaur fortress?
Bhopal, May 07: Mandsaur Lok Sabha seat, a place where farm distress took centre stage a two years ago is set to see yet another Congress-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) slugfest with old rivals Meenakshi Natarajan and the saffron party's sitting MP Sudheer Gupta coming face to face once again.
Though farm distress and farmers' anger cast a long shadow on elections in the country's Hindi belt, the BJP fared well in the Mandsaur Lok Sabha constituency, the centre of farmers' unrest.
In June 2017, Mandsaur saw clashes between farmers and the police, leading to the death of six protesters. While the authorities struggled to restore normalcy, Congress president Rahul Gandhi tried to reach the trouble site to "pay homage" to the deceased, but was detained. Thereafter, the Congress kept the farm distress issue alive.
How Mandsaur voted?
Traditionally, Madsaur is a BJP seat since 1989 barring 2009 polls when Natarajan won it for Congress. Gupta may face anti-incumbency and is trying again this time; Natarajan has also not shifted her focus from seat despite losing. It is again must win battle for both the candidates.
Also, Pandey had won the seat in 1998, 1996, 1991 and 1989. He had earlier won the seat as Jan Sangh candidate in 1971, and later as Lok Dal candidate in 1977.
It was in 1984 that Congress' Balkavi Bairagi had last won the seat for the party, and it took Meenakshi Natrajan, a good 25 years, to defeat the BJP.
In the 2013 Madhya Pradesh election, the BJP had won seven of these eight seats under Mandsaur Lok Sabha constituency with the Congress winning Suwarsa assembly segment.
In the 2018 Madhya Pradesh assembly election, the seat tally under Mandsaur Lok Sabha seat remains the same despite farmers' anger, Congress' campaign on farm issues and death of six farmers in police firing.
Can loan waiver help Congress in Mandsaur?
The BJP has suffered a major blow in the Hindi heartland losing power in all three states that went to polls Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.
Among its most prominent campaign promises was a loan waiver of up to Rs 2 lakh for farmers, with the party vowing to deliver on this count within 10 days of assuming charge. It ended up within striking distance in Madhya Pradesh election.
To the BJP's credit, the party gave the strongest fight in Madhya Pradesh, a state where farm distress and anger of farmers were the talking points during the election campaign.
Political observers say national and local issues will play an equal role in influencing the voters this time around. Clearly, BJP has the advantage here but as the 2009 victory suggested, it may not be a cakewalk for the party.