Madhya Pradesh bypolls: Congress announces candidates for 9 more seats

Three of the nine candidates are ex-BJP leaders; names on four seats held back

The Congress had announced the first list of 15 candidates on September 11 | Sanjay Ahlawat The Congress had announced the first list of 15 candidates on September 11 | Sanjay Ahlawat

In a show of preparedness for the upcoming by-polls in Madhya Pradesh, the Congress on Sunday announced candidates for nine more seats in the state even before the dates of bypolls are declared.

The party had announced the first list of 15 candidates on September 11 and today’s list takes the total number of candidates announced to 24. Now, candidates for only four seats including Biaora, where Congress MLA Govardhan Dangi succumbed to COVID-19 on September 15, remain to be announced.

The other three seats for which the Congress candidates are yet to be announced include Mehgaon in Bhind, Bada Malhera in Chhatarpur and Morena in Morena district. Sources said that internal tussles and caste equations apart from winnability of the candidates are holding back the final decision on these names.

The Election Commission of India is expected to hold a meeting on September 29 to decide bypolls dates in different states including 28 crucial seats in Madhya Pradesh. However, it still remains uncertain as to when the bypolls will be held, though the Bihar Assembly polls have already been announced to be held in the first week of November.

Given the situation, political watchers are looking at the Congress’s move to announce candidates well in advance as the party’s attempt to show that it is prepared at the ground level for the polls and to demolish the narrative put up by BJP that the Congress would not even get candidates after its powerful MLAs switched over to the BJP in the past few months.

Though the BJP has not officially announced its candidates yet, the fact that 25 out of the 28 seats have fallen vacant due to resignation of Congress ex-MLAs who later joined BJP makes it clear that these ex-MLAs will be the BJP candidates. These ex-MLAs have been joining Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Rajya Sabha MP Jyotiraditya Scindia in the election campaign rallies being held across the constituencies, further stamping their candidature.

Three ex-BJP leaders get ticket

As expected, Parul Sahu, former BJP MLA of Surkhi in Sagar; Satish Sikarwar, who was the BJP candidate from Gwalior East, and Ajab Singh Kushwaha who was the BJP candidate from Sumawali seat in Morena in 2018 Assembly polls, have been given tickets by the Congress from the respective seats. These three leaders had recently joined the Congress.

Sahu will likely be pitted against Revenue and Transport Minister Govind Singh Rajput, a strong support of Scindia, and Sikarwar against Munnalal Goyal. Kushwaha is likely to fight against Public Health Engineering Minister Aidal Singh Kansana.

Pankaj Upadhyay, who was once considered close to Scindia but decided to stay back in the Congress, was given ticket from Joura seat in Morena that fell vacant after the death of Congress MLA Banwarilal Sharma. Rakesh Patidar, who was also considered a Scindia supporter but did not leave the party, has been made a candidate from Suwasra seat in Mandsaur district. He is likely to contest against Environment and Renewable Energy Minister Hardeep Singh Dang.

A long-time Congress leader Uttam Raj Narain Singh has been given ticket from Mandhata seat in Khandwa district from where Congress MLA Narayan Patel resigned in July this year. Patel is likely to be the BJP candidate here. Brahmin leader Harivallabh Shukla will likely be pitted against Minister of State for PWD Suresh Dhakad in Pohri seat of Shivpuri.

Two relatively little known names—Ashoknagar Congress president Kanhaiya Lal Lodhi and Youth Congress leader Abhishek Singh Tinku Banna—have been given tickets from Mungaoli seat in Ashok Nagar and Badnawar seat in Dhar district respectively. Lodhi is likely to contest against Minister of State for Public Health Engineering (PHE) Brijendra Singh Yadav, while Singh will contest against Industries Policy and Investment Promotion Minister Rajvardhan Singh Dattigaon.

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