Union Minister Prahlad Singh Patel will contest from Narsinghpur, Union Minister Faggan Sing Kulaste will fight from Niwas.
Is the Shivraj Singh Chouhan era in Madhya Pradesh nearing its end? The inclusion of three Union ministers and four MPs in BJP’s second list of 39 candidates for the Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections has signalled that leaders as tall as Chief Minister Chouhan may be in the running for the top post if the saffron party manages to win the election.
Sources confirmed that the party’s “cold shoulder” to Chouhan carries a twin blow for the veteran who, allegedly, was not informed about the naming of the Union Ministers in the second list.
Questions are rising if Chouhan’s exclusion signifies his diminishing standing in the party which has decided not to project him as the front-runner for the chief ministerial post. Prime Minister Narendra Modi refrained from naming him even once during his Bhopal rally on Monday, the day the second list of candidates was announced.
The central leadership has been wary of the infighting in the state unit and Chouhan appears to be paying a price for not addressing the issue in the run-up to the November-December elections for the 230-member Assembly, a party source said, adding that there was a possibility that the Chief Minister may announce that he will not contest the Assembly elections.
However, a Madhya Pradesh BJP leader in Bhopal dismissed any such speculation about Chouhan’s shaky future. “The party never declares a CM candidate,” he said. The head of Madhya Pradesh BJP’s media department, Ashish Agrawal expressed confidence about the party campaign gaining momentum after the release of the second list of candidates.
Denying any infighting in the party, he said, “Dissidence and infighting are the features of the Congress. Its leaders try to spot this everywhere as this has been their own tradition,” he said.
“The BJP’s second list has demoralised the Congress which is now struggling to identify seats to field Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh,” he said. However, seeing desperation in the BJP’s attempts to field Union Ministers in an Assembly election, Madhya Pradesh Congress leader K.K. Mishra claimed the BJP just had PM Modi as a face to project, otherwise it would have named Chouhan in the list of candidates: “The BJP knows that the Congress is winning. It is only trying to lose the election honourably. By fielding such heavyweights in the Assembly election, the BJP has conceded defeat.”
The first list of 39 BJP candidates for the state was announced by the party on August 18. Interestingly, the first list was announced by Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar who himself has been named as a candidate now from Dimani in the second list of candidates of the party.
Union Minister Prahlad Singh Patel will contest from Narsinghpur, Union Minister Faggan Sing Kulaste will fight from Niwas. In the second list, party general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya has been fielded from Indore-1. Other Members of Parliament named include Rakesh Singh from Jabalpur Paschim, Ganesh Singh, Reeti Pathak and Uday Pratap Singh. Most of the seats for which names were announced in the second list are those where the BJP lost in the last election. A day after the announcement of the second list the party also announced the candidate for Monika Batti from Amarwara Assembly seat (reserved for Scheduled Tribe) in Chhindwara district. Apart from aggressively pursuing a Hindutva-centric campaign, both the ruling BJP and the Opposition Congress are also targeting about 50 lakh young voters whose names have been added to the voters’ list over the past five years. In comparison to 2018, the number of young voters has increased four times. The 2.6 crore women voters have also remained high on the agenda of both parties.
In August, Chouhan transferred Rs 207 crore to the bank accounts of almost 4.60 lakh students for purchasing bicycles. Apart from offering better employment to the youth, Chouhan has also tried hard to build bridges with women voters by promising 35% quota for women in government jobs. The raising of monthly allowance from Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,250 per month given to women under the Ladli Behna scheme is also being seen as his attempt to win over women voters.
The BJP has ruled Madhya Pradesh for 18 out of the past 20 years. In the last Assembly elections, the party won 109 against the Congress’ 114. The Kamal Nath-led Congress government, however, lasted less than two years as 22 party legislators rebelled, paving the way for byelections and the return of Chouhan as the Chief Minister.