BHOPAL: A year ago, no one would have expected a head-on fight between chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Congress MP Jyotiraditya Scindia — one at the helm for 13 years and the other aspiring to be the face of the party in MP — eight months before the election. But the Mungaoli and Kolaras bypolls have turned out to be just that.
Neither side is giving any quarter in this bare-knuckle fight. The Shivraj government has thrown everything in the ring — 21 of its 36 ministers have been camping in these two constituencies, the CM holds a dozen roadshows a day, and the government has gone to the extent of giving Rs 1,000 ‘fruit grant’ to Sahariya tribals.
All this to elect two MLAs who will barely be in the assembly for six-seven months. The Mungaoli and Kolaras bypolls have gone beyond a prestige fight for both parties. Retaining both will give wings to Congress — coming on the back of the three bypoll wins in Rajasthan, the strong showing in Gujarat. For BJP, the stakes are high. In victory, Chouhan can emerge far stronger than before but a defeat could raise questions.
It shows in the CM’s speeches. “Elect BJP and the government will give you five years of development in five months. If we fail, don’t vote for us again,” he has said. And Scindia, who keeps reminding his party high command to choose a CM face for the MP elections, is campaigning like a man possessed.
Water and caste equations are the key factors in both constituencies. The Yadavs, numbering about 50,000 voters, are rich farmers and a community of influence. By fielding Mahendra Singh Yadav — son of deceased MLA Ram Singh Yadav — Congress hopes to corner 30,000 Yadav votes plus the sympathy factor. BJP is counting on the Dhakkar and Kirar communities, which have 25,000 votes.
BJP tried to pit Scindia vs Scindia and fielded minister Yashodhara Raje — Jyotraditya’s aunt — rather late, on February 5, but she ended up getting a notice from EC for allegedly telling voters water won’t come to the village if they don’t vote for BJP. In Mungaoli, both parties have fielded a Yadav. While Congress has gone with Brijendra Singh Yadav, BJP chose Baisaab, wife of ex-MLA late Deshraj Singh Yadav and a member of Brijendra’s family.