While the BJP would want the Lok Sabha election to be a top-down election, contested on the name and track record of Narendra Modi, the Congress will likely put big names in BJP strongholds to tie down BJP firepower.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been the dominant force in Madhya Pradesh (MP) politics since 1989, when the party grew nationally on the back of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. Barring 1991, the BJP has got more seats that Congress in every election.
You can also read this article in Hindi- मप्र 2019- कांग्रेस का निशाना उन पाँच जगहों पर जहाँ 1989 से भाजपा जीतती आई है
Before the state was split into two parts – Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the state had 40 Lok Sabha seats. The BJP won 27 seats in 1989 (Congress: 8), 12 seats in 1991 (Congress: 26), 27 seats in 1996 (Congress: 8), 30 seats in 1998 (Congress: 10), and 29 seats in 1999 (Congress: 11).
After the bifurcation, Madhya Pradesh retained 29 constituencies with 11 transferring to Chhattisgarh. In this era, the BJP won 25 seats in 2004 (Congress: 4), 16 seats in 2009 (Congress: 12), and 27 seats in 2014 (Congress: 2). In the past 30 years, Congress has only been a strong force in 1991 and 2009 in the Lok Sabha polls.
In fact, there are five seats, which the BJP has never lost since 1989. These seats are Bhind, Bhopal, Damoh, Indore and Vidisha.
However, the 2019 Lok Sabha election will be held in circumstances unfamiliar to MP BJP. In December 2018, the Congress ousted the BJP in Bhopal, narrowly winning the state polls and forming government with support from the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Samajwadi Party (SP), and Independent members of legislative assembly. Although the Congress won the 1998 assembly election, the BJP had dominated the 1998 and 1999 Lok Sabha polls. This time, Congress is looking to capitalise on its 2018 state win and intends to target the five seats, which have been with the BJP for three decades.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, Dr Bhagirath Prasad of the BJP easily defeated Imarti Devi of the Congress with almost 1.6 lakh votes. In 2018 state elections, the Chambal region overwhelmingly voted for the Congress. Bhind was no exception, though the BJP won two assembly seats here. Imarti Devi herself pulled off a massive victory from Dabara in Gwalior.
The assembly seats in the Bhind Lok Sabha had a triple whammy for the BJP. The BJP lost almost 11 per cent votes from the 2014 tally. The new voters — about 86 thousand new enrollments — seem to have overwhelmingly voted for either the Bahujan Samaj Party or the Congress. The increased turnout also all went against the BJP.
Rumours are that the BJP will deny its sitting Member of Parliament (MP) Bhagirath Prasad another chance to contest. Previous MP Ashok Argal has again staked his claim. Congress may give the ticket to Seema Mahant, who is a known figure in the local circles, and is related to senior Chhattisgarh leader Charandas Mahant.
The BSP, SP, and various local strongmen have a big influence on this seat too. A lot will depend on candidate selection and potential defections across parties.
Bhopal was a shocker for the BJP in the 2018 state elections. The party lost Bhopal Dakshin Pashchim and Bhopal Central seats to the Congress. Although the BJP would have retained this seat based on the assembly votes, it would have been a very narrow win, a far cry from the 2014 sweep.
Bhopal MP Alok Sanjar is not considered a very influential leader and may well make way for a big name to contest from the seat. There have been talks of Narendra Tomar, current Union minister and Gwalior MP shifting to Bhopal.
BJP local heavyweight Babulal Gaur was denied ticket this time from the Govindpura seat. He has since been hobnobbing with the Congress, though his daughter-in-law contested from the seat and won comfortably.
The Congress on the other hand started its state Lok Sabha campaign from Bhopal. Rahul Gandhi addressed a rally in Bhopal on 9 February, launching into his customary attacks on the Narendra Modi government using the Rafale deal.
Congress also faces a candidate selection problem. The party has fielded eight different candidates from this seat in the eight Lok Sabha elections starting 1989. There has been no continuity for the party. However, there have been talks of Congress bringing Kareena Kapoor Khan to Bhopal. Her father-in-law Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi was the Congress candidate in 1991 but lost that time to BJP’s Sushil Chandra Verma.
Damoh was narrowly retained by the BJP in 2018. However, this Lok Sabha constituency turned the tables on the state tally.
Dr Ramkrishna Kusumaria — veteran BJP leader, denied ticket in the state election, contested from two constituencies — Damoh and Pathariya. He polled more votes than BJP’s margin of defeat in both the constituencies. Had all his votes added to the BJP tally, the party would have been at 111 seats in the state, as against Congress tally of 113 and BSP would have been reduced to one seat. The actual tally ended up being 109 for the BJP, 114 for the Congress and two seats for the BSP.
Kusumaria has now joined Congress in the Bhopal rally of Rahul Gandhi. It is likely he will be fielded as the Congress candidate for the Lok Sabha. For the BJP, the good news was that it retained almost all its vote, though all other parties improved their tally. Prahlad Patel, the sitting MP should retain his seat, but may have to take on the heavyweight Kusumaria.
The seat may well be decided based on what the BSP does — the party is likely to contest all seats in the state on its own, not allying with either the Congress or the SP.
Sumitra Mahajan has won the Indore seat eight times since 1989. Except 2009, when she came close to losing the seat, her hold on Indore Lok Sabha has been very strong. However, she had expressed her willingness to step down even in 2014, but then went ahead to contest that year. She has been the Lok Sabha Speaker since 2014.
Given that the BJP lost a few assembly seats in this Lok Sabha to Congress in 2018 mainly due to localised anti-incumbency, it is quite possible the BJP fields a new candidate from Indore. Kailash Vijayvargiya, the BJP national general secretary would be the automatic choice should he want to contest. If he chooses to stay in the party politics, Malini Gaur, the current mayor and Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) could be another possibility. Vijayvargiya’s confidante and MLA Ramesh Mendola could also be a stand-in for Vijayvargiya.
Like Bhopal, Congress again has a tough decision at hand. Seven candidates have contested the eight Lok Sabha elections since 1989 for Congress. The party may look to import a big name — Arun Govil, who played Lord Ram in the Doordarshan serial, Ramayan is the name doing the rounds in local circles.
The BJP held on to most of its votes in 2018. But 1.5 lakh new voters have enrolled in Indore since 2014. Just like Bhopal, it is quite likely the party did not get a hold on them. Congress will like to build on these gains.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Sushma Swaraj — these are the names who have won from Vidisha Lok Sabha seat in the last three decades. Sushma Swaraj, India’s External Affairs Minister and the sitting MP, has already said she will not contest Lok Sabha elections again.
The most logical choice then could be ex-chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, if he were to move to the national stage. Else, the BJP may look to import another big name, given that the seat continues to be a safe one, despite Congress making big gains in 2018.
For Congress, Lakshman Singh, brother of ex-chief minister Digvijay Singh may be the most obvious choice. He contested last time too but lost to Swaraj. The Gondwana Gantantra Party has some influence on this seat and Congress may gain by tying up with them — an alliance which did not materialise for the assembly election.
Nonetheless, BJP would still have an upper hand in Vidisha. Of the five long-held seats, Vidisha and Indore still seem the safest bets for the BJP.
While the BJP would want the Lok Sabha election to be wave, top-down election, contested on the name and track record of PM Narendra Modi, the Congress will try to fight each seat separately. With nothing to lose, the Congress will likely put big names in BJP strongholds to tie down BJP firepower.