The BJP surprised many with its second list of 39 candidates for upcoming Madhya Pradesh State Assembly elections, as it included three Union ministers, four MPs, and a national general secretary.
This move comes as the party faces tough competition from the Congress in the state.
Union ministers Narendra Singh Tomar, Prahlad Patel, and Faggan Singh Kulaste, along with MPs Rakesh Singh, Ganesh Singh, Reeti Pathak, and Uday Pratap Singh, as well as general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, will now be contesting in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections.
The inclusion of these prominent leaders has opened up the field for potential chief minister candidates if the BJP emerges victorious.
Narendra Singh Tomar, Prahlad Patel, and Kailash Vijayvargiya are now considered strong contenders.
Shivraj Singh Chouhan has held the position of CM for 20 years, with a brief interruption after the 2018 elections when the Congress narrowly took the lead.
The party is concerned about fatigue setting in regarding Chouhan, who has not been named the CM face, while Kamal Nath is leading the Congress campaign, matching the BJP in strategies and policies.
Notably, during a rally in Madhya Pradesh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not mention Shivraj Singh Chouhan even once.
Seven MPs who were announced on Monday as candidates for the party were informed in advance about the decision, except for Chouhan, Indian Express reported citing sources.
According to the IE report, close associates of the Chief Minister have stated that he was taken by surprise.
They admitted to having a suspicion that Vijayvargiya may contest, but the inclusion of Union ministers came as a surprise.
"To be honest, we don’t know who will be the next CM now," the sources were quoted as saying by the Indian Express.
The BJP has released a second list of names for Madhya Pradesh polls, following the initial list of 39 names announced on 18 August. Notably, the first list did not feature any prominent figures.
Among the MPs announced, Kulaste has served as a Lok Sabha representative for six terms, while Rakesh Singh and Ganesh Singh have each served four terms.
Tomar is currently in his third term, and Pathak is in his second term.
Tomar, Rakesh Singh and Uday Pratap Singh are Rajputs, Patel (Lodhi) and Ganesh Singh (Kurmi) are OBCs, Kulaste is a tribal leader and Pathak a Brahmin. Tomar, an MP from Morena, will be contesting from Dimani. Ganesh Singh, the Satna MP, will be standing from the Satna Assembly seat. Kulaste, the Mandla MP, has been fielded from Niwas.
Rakesh Singh, the Jabalpur MP, will be contesting from Jabalpur Paschim.
Prahlad Patel, the Damoh MP, will be standing from Narsingpur.
Pathak, the Sidhi MP, will be contesting from Sidhi.
Uday Pratap Singh, the Hoshangabad MP, will be standing from Gadarwara.
Vijayvargiya will contest from Indore-1.
Pathak will replace Kedarnath Shukla, who was involved in a controversy after a man accused of being his worker had urinated upon a tribal man, sparking a political row.
Chouhan himself intervened to control the damage, washing the feet of the victim as a form of penance.
Most of the candidates announced on Monday will be contesting from seats that the BJP lost in the previous election.
In addition to the MPs and Vijayvargiya, seven former MLAs are included in the list.
Their names were reportedly decided based on internal surveys.
According to a senior BJP leader, the party has achieved multiple objectives by fielding experienced leaders in the electoral battlefield.
This move creates the perception of collective leadership and eliminates any potential fatigue factor against Chouhan.
Voters will now see a variety of faces at the forefront of the BJP, the leader said.
Another senior leader involved in the state campaign emphasized that the BJP has successfully showcased a diverse range of prominent leaders representing different caste groups and areas.
"We have also shown that we are into long-term build up. We are serious about winning Madhya Pradesh," the leader said, IE reported.
Further, the decision to field multiple leaders was reportedly also a tactic to address internal conflicts, particularly among those aspiring for the top post.
This strategy was previously employed in Tripura, where both Manik Saha and Pratima Bhoumik were fielded.
Their aides put in their best efforts, hoping their respective leaders would be chosen as the Chief Minister, ultimately benefiting the party as a whole.
The BJP in the state has been dealing with internal conflicts, prompting Home Minister Amit Shah to directly intervene in the party's campaign.
Vijayvargiya, who could have caused the BJP trouble, is now kept happy, while Prahlad Patel cancels out fellow Lodhi Uma Bharti’s OBC assertions.
Tomar, Patel, Kulaste, and Vijayvargiya recently played an active role in organising the BJP's Jan Ashirwad Yatra, which spanned 230 Assembly constituencies and covered over 10,000 km in the state.
With the central leadership taking complete control of the yatra, Chouhan appeared overshadowed.
According to Rajneesh Agrawal, the State BJP secretary, “The list is a political strike against the Congress. We have brought in our heavyweights, and the Congress now has no answer. These are leaders who are very popular, their impact cutting across constituencies, which will give much-needed boost to the morale of BJP workers.”
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