NEW DELHI: Will Madhya Pradesh, with 29 seats, see yet another one-sided contest in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections? Or will Congress manage to gain some lost ground? In the last two elections in the state, BJP decimated the grand old party as it scored landslide victories, winning 28 seats in 2019 and 27 in 2014.
The 2019 election victory of BJP was significant as it came months after the saffron party suffered a shock defeat at the hands of Congress in 2018 assembly elections.However, Congress’s triumph was short-lived as it lost its government in 14 months.

For Congress, the 2024 Lok Sabha battle comes as a daunting challenge as the party is still trying to recover from its humiliating defeat in the 2023 assembly elections. The grand old party, which was eager to take revenge against BJP for toppling its government, ended up losing significant ground in the state in the assembly elections as well.
While BJP got two-third majority with 163 seats, Congress was reduced to 66 seats, down from 114 in 2018.

Congress has fielded several of its sitting MLAs for the Lok Sabha contest in the hope that they could change the party’s electoral fortunes in the state. In fact, other than 2009 when Congress won 12 seats, Lok Sabha elections in the state since 2000 have been dominated by the BJP.

The Chhindwara challenge:

For BJP, the biggest challenge perhaps would be to ensure that the Lotus blooms in Chhindwara, the lone seat it could not win in 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Chhindwara has been the bastion of senior Congress leader and former state chief minister Kamal Nath. The Congress has fielded Kamal Nath’s son Nakul Nath from the seat.
For decades, this region has been under the firm grip of Kamal Nath, a political heavyweight who has maintained dominance in state politics since 1980. However, the entry of Nakul Nath into the electoral fray imparts a new dynamic to the race.
Kamal Nath faced his only defeat in the Chhindwara constituency during the 1997 by-poll, where Sunder Lal Patwa emerged victorious, marking his entry into the Lok Sabha. However, Sunder Lal Patwa lost in the subsequent 1998 General Election, thereby ending his tenure as a representative of Chhindwara.

Here’s a look at how people of Chhindwara have voted in the past elections:

BJP has fielded Vivek ‘Bunty’ Sahu from Chhindwara, indicating their strong intent to challenge the father-son duo in their stronghold. The saffron party is poised to launch an aggressive campaign to wrest the seat from Congress. In fact, after the victory in assembly elections, former BJP chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had visited Chhindwara to highlight the importance of the seat for the party.
The 2023 state assembly election in the region saw a fierce contest between Banti Sahu and Kamal Nath. Kamal Nath won by a margin of just 36594 votes.
Chinndrawara will vote in the first phase on April 19. The other seats that will vote in the first round are Sidhi, Shahdol, Jabalpur, Mandla and Balaghat. Subsequent phases will see voting in other key constituencies such as Tikamgarh, Damoh, Khajuraho, Satna, Rewa, Hoshangabad, and Betul.

Some of these constituencies such as Shahdol, Mandla, and Satna, where the Congress has strategically fielded its incumbent MLAs against BJP’s sitting MPs could see an interesting contest.
The BJP has dropped 11 of its sitting MPs in a bid to fight any possible anti-incumbency by fielding fresh faces in constituencies from Gwalior, Sagar, Bhopal, Damoh, Sidhi, Jabalpur, Hoshangabad, Ratlam, Vidisha, Guna, Balaghat, Chhindwara.
While the Congress campaign in the state will be led by the old guard of Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh, the BJP will depend heavily on the charisma of Prime Minister Modi. For the saffron party, former chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and present chief minister Mohan Yadav will also have to play a key role if the party is to achieve its target of 29 out of 29. Whether or not that happens will be known on June 4.

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