Congress, BJP moving at snail’s pace in MP

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Bhopal, April 1 (IANS) With the nomination process for the first phase of polling for the Lok Sabha elections in Madhya Pradesh starting on Tuesday, front-runners Congress and BJP seem to show no urgency in announcing their candidates from the state.

The two parties have turned the selection of candidates into a battle of attrition in the state. Nine days since they released their first lists, they have been struggling to finalise the nominees for all 29 seats.

The BJP held 26 seats and the Congress had three in the outgoing house.

So far, the BJP has finalised 18 names. It dropped five sitting members in its first list for 15 seats on March 24 and two more were denied tickets in the second list released on Friday.

There have been violent protests after it declared candidates for three constituencies, dropping two sitting MPs. Suspense persists on the fate of Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, who has represented Indore eight times in the past. The party now wants her to retire for having crossed 75-year age barrier. Thus, the decision on her Indore seat has been kept in abeyance.

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On Friday, the party dropped sitting MPs Bodh Singh Bhagat (Balaghat) and Subhash Patel (Khargone) and instead nominated Dhal Singh Bisen and Gajendra Patel. Bhagat’s supporters had locked the party office in protest. Former state minister Gaurishankar Bisen who represented Balaghat in the assembly has had violent conflicts with Bhagat in the past. Gaurishankar has supported the new nominee Dhal Singh Bisen whose supporters finally broke into the party office. The party would be hard put to placate Bhagat.

The other dissident, Anup Mishra, who was denied a ticket from Morena, is still in touch with Congress leadership. If he switches to Congress, he might be fielded from Gwalior.

The party has retained sitting MP Rodmal Nagar from Rajgarh, the home turf of former Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh, who was keen to join the fray there. In 2014, Nagar had breached the family bastion of Rajgarh to beat Singh loyalist Narayan Singh Amlave.

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By getting Digvijaya Singh to contest from Bhopal the Congress has been able to create self-doubts among the BJP leaders. The BJP has not been able to finalise its candidate for the seat after his nomination. There were indications that former Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan could be asked to contest from Bhopal.

Chouhan, however, is reluctant and wants to contest from Vidisha which he has represented for long. With External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, the sitting MP having declined to contest, the seat held by the BJP for three decades is up for grabs by the Congress.

The Congress Central Election Committee is scheduled to meet on Tuesday to finalise the list of 20 remaining candidates. At least another 12 candidates may be announced on Tuesday.

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Of the 20 seats, the names for Chhindwara, Sidhi and Jabalpur are said to have been finalised. Chief Minister Kamal Nath’s son Nakul Nath is likely to replace him for the Chhindwara Lok Sabha seat. Kamal Nath is to be nominated for the Chhindwara assembly seat on Tuesday.

Party sources say former Leader of Opposition in the assembly Ajay Singh and former Additional Solicitor General of India Vivek Tankha may contest from the Sidhi and Jabalpur seats. The BJP has already fielded its state unit president Rakesh Singh from Jabalpur.

The BJP is also expected to announce its candidate on Tuesday to take on Kamal Nath for assembly byelection.

The voting in Madhya Pradesh will be held in the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th phases, beginning April 29 and concluding May 19. The results, as in the rest of the country, will be declared on May 23.

(Chandrakant Naidu can be contacted at [email protected])

–IANS

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