The Congress’s first list for the state that goes to polls on November 28 was seen by experts as a balancing act by party chief Rahul Gandhi to take all sections on board. Jai Adivasi Yuva Shakti (JAYS) founder Hiralal Alawa, former Union minister Suresh Pachauri and two relatives of the state’s former chief minister, Digvijaya Singh, were announced as candidates in the first list.
The JAYS is a tribal outfit that could influence the outcome in 60 of the 230 seats across the state. Madhya Pradesh has 47 reserved seats for Scheduled Tribes. Alawa, a doctor from Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), launched the socio-political outfit in 2012 as a result of dissatisfaction among the tribals with the state government.
Three former legislators of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – Sanjay Sharma, Padma Shukla, and Abhay Mishra – have also been given tickets. The party repeated 45 sitting MLAs and dropped three.
Coming a day after the BJP declared its first list of 177 candidates, the Congress’s list included at least two dozen candidates aged below 40. The first-timers in the list included Alawa from Manawar, National Students’ Union of India state president Vipin Wankhede from Agar and Youth Congress president Kunal Choudhary from Kalapipal.
The BJP has been in power in Madhya Pradesh since 2003 and Shivraj Singh Chouhan has been the chief minister from November 2005.
Sharma, who joined the Congress in the presence of Gandhi recently, has been fielded from Tendukheda, where he was previously a BJP MLA. From Chachoda, the Congress ticket was given to Laxman Singh, who is Digvijaya Singh’s brother. The veteran Congress leader’s son, Jaivardhan Singh, has also been made a candidate.
The three sitting MLAs who have been denied tickets are Shakuntala Khatik from Shivpuri, Manoj Kumar Agrawal from Kotma and Govardhan Upadhyay from Sironje. The Congress tickets have not been declared in many areas in the Gwalior-Chambal region, which is considered to be a stronghold of Jyotiraditya Scindia, and also in the Mahakaushal area, which is considered to be a stronghold of Madhya Pradesh Congress president Kamal Nath.
Out of power for 15 years in the country’s fifth-largest state, the state Congress campaign for this year’s elections has been spearheaded by Scindia and Nath.
The party also gave a ticket to Sachin Yadav, a relative of former Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee chief Arun Yadav.
Madhya Pradesh Congress media cell in-charge Shobha Oza said there were 22 women in the first list, of whom 15 were new faces.
Reacting to the first list of the Congress, BJP spokesperson Rajneesh Agrawal said there was no need for the Congress to be excited. He said the list showed that there was still discontent in the party.
Political commentator LS Hardeniya said the first list of the Congress appeared to be good and included candidates who had the capacity to win. He, however, said that the party had a good first list in 2008 but could not capitalize on it.
Voting for the 230-member Madhya Pradesh assembly takes place on November 28, and November 9 is the last day to file nominations. The results will be announced on December 11.
At least 50 million people are eligible to vote across 65,341 polling stations in the state which has 35 seats reserved for the Scheduled Castes and 47 for the Scheduled Tribes.