The BJP didn’t drop in­cum­bents en masse as some ex­pected, but has been hit by re­bel­lion in its ranks any­way

India Today - - STATES - By Rahul Noronha

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.


SHAKE ON THATVet­eran BJP leader Sar­taj Singh with the Congress’s Digvi­jaya Singh af­ter he joined the party, Nov. 8

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