Former President's son gives BJP a run for its money
Banking on former President Shanker Dayal Sharma's clean image, his son Ashutosh is trying to make his maiden entry into the Lok Sabha from Vidisha in Madhya Pradesh.
Contesting on a Congress ticket, Ashutosh Sharma has locked horns with state Bharatiya Janata Party general secretary Shivraj Singh Chouhan. The BJP candidate, who has won two elections in the constituency, is trying to keep Sharma away from the seat, once won by Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Although Ashutosh Sharma is a novice in politics, he is not a stranger to the electorate. His family's political background, along with the profound impact of his father's clean image, may hold him in good stead in a constituency where BJP candidates have won the last four elections.
Despite the presence of nine other candidates in the fray, the contest seems to be mainly between the BJP and the Congress. And Sharma is making a serious bid to upset the BJP applecart, going with the local legislator and party workers to even the remotest villages of the constituency.
Sprawling over the three districts -- Raisen, Sehore and Vidisha with eight assembly segments -- the constituency has returned Congress nominees only twice, in 1980 and 1984, since the 1967 election, and that too by very narrow margins.
In 1967, Shiv Sharma of the Jana Sangh beat Ram Sahay Pandey of the Congress by more than 67,000 votes. Newspaper baron Ramnath Goenka, also of the Jana Sangh, defeated industrialist Manibhai Patel of the Congress by more than 32,000 votes in 1971.
During the Janata Party wave in 1977, Raghavji of the Bharatiya Lok Dal trounced Gufran-e-Azam of the Congress by 123,000 votes. However Congress candidate Pratap Bhanu Sharma won the election in 1980, defeating Raghavji, now a member of the Janata Party.
In 1984, Raghvaji, now in the BJP, lost to Sharma again.
Raghavji had his revenge in 1989, beating Sharma. In 1991, Atal Bihari Vajpayee retained the seat for the BJP, trouncing Sharma by more than 100,000 votes.
The seat fell vacant after Vajpayee vacated it for the Lucknow seat. In the by-election that followed, Shivraj Chouhan won again for the BJP. The voters returned him again in 1996 by 175,000 votes over his nearest Congress rival Hridayamohan Jain.
The closest competition for these two parties is provided by the Bahujan Samaj Party, which polled 7.5 per cent of the votes in the last election. It has fielded Ajay Kushwah as its candidate this time.
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