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Congress fails to dent BJP citadel in Mandsaur-the epicentre of farmers' unrest


New Delhi, Amidst the tightest-ever election in Madhya Pradesh, Mandsaur - the epicentre of farmers' unrest - has returned to BJP, all of the seven seats the party had won in 2013 Assembly elections. These include the five sitting MLAs and two new faces.Congress just about managed to retain the eighth seat - Suwasra - by mere 350 votes, indicating a status quo in Mandsaur parliamentary constituency that has eight Assembly segments. Significantly, the sitting BJP Mandsaur and Malhargarh (SC) MLAs have won, despite the two sites being the hub of farmers' agitation in 2016, in which six farmers lost their lives. Congress kept the ryots' issue alive through 2017 and 2018, even as the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government charged anti-social elements with fanning the unrest into a full-blown agitation, which became a rallying point for Opposition parties and protest groups. Rather than acceding to the farm loan waiver demand, the Shivraj government preferred to focus on raising farm income. It brought in Bhavantar scheme (payment of difference in price), introduced export policy for surpluses and invited agri businesses to open shop in the state. But this was closer to elections and the government could not properly implement the schemes on ground to assuage the farmers, who were swaying between the ruling dispensation for providing better roads, water, power, houses and the Opposition Congress that beckoned with a promise of farm loan waiver. Limited period online registration for Bhavantar added to chaos and dilemma among the small and medium farmers. Congress saw in the situation an opportunity to impact elections and promptly announced a farm loan waiver of Rs two lakh for all farmers within 10 days of coming to power. Now, when the Congress is in the process of forming government in Madhya Pradesh, Party President Rahul Gandhi said at a press conference here on Tuesday that farm loan waiver was not a solution and agrarian distress was a 'complex issue'. In such a scenario, it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi's election rally in Mandsaur that gave a leg up to BJP candidates in this agriculturally-rich Malwa region that cultivates wheat, opium, soyabean, onion, garlic, maize and several varieties of herbs and spices. In fact, Malharganj’s BJP MLA Jagdish Dewda improved his victory margin, despite strong campaigning by Jyotiraditya Scindia in favour of new Congress candidate Parshuram Sisodia. Sitting Mandsaur MLA Yashpal Singh Sidodia defeated former Congress Minister Narendra Nahata in a fiercely fought contest. Nahata lagged in gaining city votes. Neemach, which has a huge anaj mandi and is a hub of opium and soyabean cultivation, also returned sitting BJP MLA Dilip Singh Parihar, who defeated Congress candidate Satya Narayan. BJP's decision to provide a new face, Anirudh (Madhav) Maroo in Manasa in place of Kailash Chawla, paid dividends and the former romped home a convincing margin against Congress' Umrao Shivlal Singh. Former Chief Minister Virendra Sakhlecha's son and sitting BJP MLA Om Prakash Sakhlecha retained the Jawad seat, although by a lower margin. BJP's Jaora sitting MLA Rajendra Pandey defeated KK Sing Kalukheda by a narrow margin.Garoth had recently seen a by-poll, which was won by BJP. Here, the party's new candidate Devilal Dhakad defeated Congress old horse Subhash Kumar Sojatia in a fiercely-fought contest. Sojatia also had to contend with rebel candidate Toofan Singh, who contested as an Independent. In the 2013 Assembly elections, Congress had managed to win only Suwasra and that too because of the image of local candidate Hardeep Singh Dang. In this Assembly election, Dang was locked in battle with Radheyshyam Nanalal Patidar (BJP) till the last round of counting and finally, won by a touch-and-go margin of 350 votes. Patidar faced revolt within the BJP rank and file over his unavailability, since 2013 election. Clearly, the challenge for winning MLAs, begins now.

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