TICKETS TO NOWHERE
The BJP didn’t drop incumbents en masse as some expected, but has been hit by rebellion in its ranks anyway
In a straight contest between the BJP and Congress in the coming assembly polls, selecting the ‘right’ candidates has been a critical and fraught exercise for both parties. But no one expected the fallout and rebellion to reach such levels.
The BJP was the first to show its hand, announcing 176 out of the 230 candidates. And former chief minister and 10-term MLA Babulal Gaur was among the first to break ranks, announcing that he would contest as an independent, if denied a ticket. Daughterin-law and former Bhopal mayor Krishna soon followed suit. The
party capitulated, and Krishna was given the ticket from Gaur stronghold Govindpura, bypassing Sangh favourites like Alok Sharma and Tapan Bhaumik. Former Union minister Sartaj Singh wasn’t that lucky. Denied a ticket, the Jan Sangh/ BJP leader of 58 years has now joined the Congress and is contesting against speaker Sitasaran Sharma in Hoshangabad.
The biggest shocker, though, was CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s brother-in-law, Sanjay Singh Masani, who joined the Congress on November 3. Meanwhile, K.K. Shrivastava, the BJP MLA from
Tikamgarh, has accused the party of selling tickets and former Sehore MLA Ramesh Saxena has echoed his sentiments. Former finance minister Raghavji, dropped from the cabinet and arrested on charges of sodomy, filed his papers as an independent from Shamshabad after his daughter was denied a ticket by the BJP. In Bundelkhand, the Samajwadi Party has turned out to be the party of choice for rebels from both the BJP and Congress. While ex-minister R.K. Kusmaria is contesting as an independent, former BJP MLAs Rekha Yadav and Surendra Pratap Singh ‘Baby Raja’ are contesting on SP tickets. Unlike in earlier elections, the saffron rebellion this time is out in the open— and going viral on social media.
Feedback from the Sangh prior to ticket distribution had suggested that at least half of the 166 BJP MLAs would be denied tickets. Eventually, 51 were axed and seats of four MLAs changed. A total of five ministers were dropped and three Lok Sabha MPs are plotting a return to the assembly.
Among the BJP’s new faces are three sitting MPs—Manohar Untwal from Agar, Nagendra Singh from Nagod and Anup Mishra, the late A.B. Vajpayee’s nephew, in Bhitarwar. Umakant Sharma, a prime accused in the Vyapam Scam, has been fielded from Sironj. All three incumbent independents—Sudesh Rai, Dinesh Rai and Kal Singh Bhabhar—have also been given tickets, inciting talk of a further revolt.
The Congress appears to have acted with greater sagacity in dropping just four sitting MLAs. It is now contesting on 229 seats and has left one seat, Jatara, for the Loktantrik Janata Dal. The Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh factions seem to have had their say. Both, Digvijaya’s brother Laxman Singh and son Jaivardhan have been nominated. BJP rebels Sanjay Sharma (Tendukheda), Padma Shukla (Vijayraghogarh) and Abhay Mishra (Rewa) have also been rewarded as has been Renu Shah, who defected from the BSP. State NSUI president Vipin Wankhede and Youth Congress chief Kunal Chaudhry are also contestants from Agar and Kala Pipal, respectively.
Contrary to expectations, the Congress, which sees itself within striking distance of grabbing power in MP, has far fewer rebels. Although by renominating most incumbent MLAs, the party risks voter fatigue. In 2013, Congress re-nominated 62 of its 71 legislators, but only 17 candidates—all veterans—could win.
Of the notable turncoats, Nitin Trivedi, the son of veteran Congress leader Satyavrat Chaturvedi, has filed papers from Rajnagar as an SP candidate after being denied. Ex-Ujjain MP Prem Chand Guddu has joined the BJP and his son Ajit Borasi has been rewarded with a ticket from Ghatiya segment.
“Voters don’t distinguish between the ruling party and the opposition. If you are the MLA, public expectation stops at your doorstep. No one buys the argument about not being able to get things done as you were in the opposition,” says a former Congress MLA who lost in 2013 and knows that anti-incumbency affects opposition legislators too.
Containing rebels is now the need of the hour. While in the BJP, RSS functionaries and activists have fanned out to try and quell the revolt, the Congress high command has tasked Digvijaya Singh with managing disgruntled ticket aspirants. Just how successful they are, will become evident on December 11.
CONTRARY TO EXPECTATIONS, THE CONGRESS HAS FAR FEWER REBELS THAN THE BJP
SHAKE ON THATVeteran BJP leader Sartaj Singh with the Congress’s Digvijaya Singh after he joined the party, Nov. 8