The Bundelkhand region comprises eight districts of Madhya Pradesh and seven of the neighbouring Uttar Pradesh.
Months after the Congress ended the 15-year BJP rule in Madhya Pradesh, the question doing the rounds in the state’s political circles is if Rahul Gandhi can reverse his party’s fortunes in the Bundelkhand region, considered a citadel of the saffron party. The Bundelkhand region comprises eight districts of Madhya Pradesh and seven of the neighbouring Uttar Pradesh. In April 2008, Gandhi had paid a surprise visit to Bundelkhand’s remote Tapriyan village in Madhya Pradesh’s Tikamgarh district and spent the night at a tribal’s residence.
Following his visit, Bundelkhand’s poverty and backwardness made headlines across the country. However, the Congress failed to reap its political dividends in the subsequent state assembly elections. The party even failed to open its account in the region in 2009 and 2014 general elections. Bundelkhand holds four Lok Sabha seats — Sagar, Khajuraho, Damoh and Tikamgarh. The Congress has not won Damoh since 1989 and won Sagar last in 1996.
The BJP has won Khajuraho since 1989, except in 1999, when the Congress’s Satyavrata Chaturvedi was elected from the constituency. The Tikamgarh constituency, which was carved out following delimitation in 2008, has also been held by the BJP since 2009. Congress MLA from Chhatarpur, Alok Chaturvedi, is optimistic of the grand old party breaching the BJP fortress this time. “There is massive anti-incumbency against the sitting BJP MPs of this region.
Even their own party leaders are upset since the BJP’s candidates were announced. So, the Congress is surely going to open its account in this election as it also performed well in the recent Vidhan Sabha elections,” Chaturvedi told PTI. The Congress leader said the BJP had won seats in the previous elections due to a Modi wave, but that is missing this time. Chaturvedi attributed the Congress’s poor showing in Bundelkhand to delimitation and poor candidate selection. “Besides, the erstwhile BJP government in the state also misused the Bundelkhand package given by the UPA government.
So, its benefits could not reach the people,” he added. However, sitting Damoh MP Prahlad Patel, who has been nominated by the BJP again this year, exuded confidence that the saffron party will retain all the seats in the region. “Though the announcement of candidate for Khajuraho was delayed, the BJP is going win all seats like the last parliamentary election,” Patel told PTI. Asked about the protests at some places against the BJP candidates, Patel said, “These are traditional seats of the BJP. Candidates are not important, it’s the BJP that wins the election.
Prahlad Patel is insignificant, it’s the BJP which is contesting the election.” Defending his party’s poor performance in the 2018 state assembly elections, he said the BJP’s overall vote percentage was the same as the last Lok Sabha election. “Couple of party candidates were defeated by a small margin of votes in the assembly polls. But, the percentage of votes in favour of the BJP was the same as the last election,” said Patel, who is pitted against the Congress’s Pratap Singh Lodhi.
The BJP has also re-nominated sitting Tikamgarh MP Virendra Khatik, who will take on the Congress’s Kiran Ahirwar. Khajuraho will see a contest between the BJP’s state general secretary Vishnu Datt Sharma and the grand old party’s Kavita Singh. Dissent has been brewing in the BJP’s state unit since the announcement of candidature of Sharma, considered the choice of the RSS and an outsider.
BJP MLA from Mudwara, Giriraj Kishore Poodar resigned from the party to protest the decision. The BJP has fielded Rajbahadur Singh from Sagar, while the Congress has nominated Prabhu Singh Thakur. Sagar is considered the strongest seat for the BJP in the region as the party holds seven out of eight assembly seats under this constituency. Tikamgarh, Damoh and Khajuraho will go to polls on May 6 and voting will be held in Sagar on May 12.