Chronicle Reporter, Bhopal
The coming by-polls in Kolaras and Mungaoli would not only pit chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan against the challenge emanating from the Congress, but would also set the tone for the upcoming Assembly general elections due in November 2018.
Besides Chouhan, for whom the election results would be indicative of his hold on the state, the outcome in Mungaoli and Kolaras would be crucial for Guna MP Jyotiraditya Scindia who has emerged as the principal challenger to Chouhan. Both Assembly segments lie within Guna Lok Sabha seat and they would be more than a prestige contest for Scindia.
The outcome of the by-polls would give Congressmen an idea of Scindia’s battle readiness for the bigger fight due late next year. It is evident that the ruling party is pushing in all its muscle to wrest Mungaoli and Kolaras from the Congress.
The outcome of upcoming by-elections to Mungaoli and Kolaras assembly seats will be watched keenly as it would be a pointer to the general mood in the BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh which is going to polls later this year.
Both the BJP and Congress are confident of the victory on the two seats, currently held by the Congress, that fall under Guna Lok Sabha constituency, the pocket-borough of Congress stalwart Jyotiraditya Scindia.
Scindia touring two seats
For Scindia, retaining both the seats in his home turf is a battle of prestige as he is positioning himself as the chief ministerial candidate of the Congress.
Aware of the high stakes involved, the Gwalior royal has been constantly touring these two seats in a bid to ward off the saffron challenge. Both the candidates, Mahendra Singh Yadav (Kolaras) and Brijesh Singh Yadav (Mungaoli), are staunch Scindia loyalists.
Chouhan trying to woo voters
On its part, the BJP has dispatched a string of Cabinet ministers for campaigning while Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has offered various sops to woo voters in the region.
The Congress, buoyed by its improved performance in last year’s Gujarat polls and by retaining the Chitrakoot seat in the bypoll, is confident of victory.
The defeat in the by-polls could also give a handle to Chouhan’s detractors within the party to demand his replacement on the ground of anti-incumbency. Similarly, a defeat in the by-elections would be viewed as a setback for Scindia who is trying to set in order the faction-ridden Congress unit.
The Congress has been claiming that the Bharatiya Janata Party’s downfall in Madhya Pradesh has begun with Congress’ victories in Ater and Chitrakoot by-polls. Jyotiraditya Scindia has also claimed that the ruling party’s farewell would begin from February 24.
Recently Congress party’s top leaders from the state had gathered at two separate road-shows ahead of the by-polls in Kolaras and Mungaoli constituencies. The gathering was to mark the filing of nomination papers by its candidates but the nearly six-hour road-shows became a signal, at least for the party’s supporters, of the times ahead.
Since the farmers’ meet in Lahaar, Bhind, in July last year, which was lined up by several top Congress leaders, no other rally had seen so many Congress leaders sharing the stage.
An upbeat Congress’s display of unity is being seen as a continuation of momentum, according to political observers. Those headlining the road-shows included party’s chief whip in Lok Sabha Jyotiraditya Scindia, former Union ministers Kamal Nath, Suresh Pachauri and Kantilal Bhuria, state president Arun Yadav, leader of Opposition Ajay Singh, and state affairs in-charge Deepak Bawaria, all of whom drove in an open jeep with the candidates in a convoy of over 200 vehicles.