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|November 21, 1998||
Congress, BJP take on each other in Malwa region
A straight contest between the ruling Congress and the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party is on the cards in the Malwa region of Madhya Pradesh which represents 65 of the 320 seats in the state assembly.
With only three days to go for elections, campaigning has reached a crescendo in the 12 districts of Indore and Ujjain divisions, which form the region.
The Bahujan Samaj Party, which has not entered into an electoral understanding with the Congress, has fielded only 10 candidates in the region. BSP president Kanshi Ram, who toured the region twice, has exhorted party cadres to defeat BJP candidates where it was not contesting.
Trying their electoral fortune are two former chief ministers, nine members of the Digvijay Singh cabinet, besides a host of former ministers. As the Chhattisgarh region with its 90 seats is poised to form a new state, the Malwa region which will account for 30 per cent of the remaining 230 seats, has suddenly become politically significant.
In the 1993 election the Congress and the BJP bagged 32 seats each while one seat went to an Independent. The BJP was successful in urban areas, wresting all eight seats in Indore district while the Congress captured all five seats in the tribal-dominated Jhabua district.
In the 1996 Lok Sabha poll the BJP led in 55 assembly segments while the Congress only in 10. However, in the February Lok Sabha election, the Congress improved its performance, leading in 17 assembly segments.
The importance of the region in the formation of a new government is evident from the fact that Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Congress president Sonia Gandhi launched their poll campaign in the state from this region.
While the BJP has retained its nominees from the last election, the Congress has gone for fresh faces in a large number of seats. Two ministers in the Digvijay Singh cabinet -- Tanwant Singh Keer and Bapu Singh Donor -- were denied tickets by the Congress.
Local issues like poor supply of seeds and fertilisers to farmers, irregular power supply and condition of roads are being raised by the BJP's campaigners, while skyrocketing prices of onions and potatos is raised by the Congress.
Chief Minister Digvijay Singh, senior Congress leaders Arjun Singh, Madhavrao Scindia, Kamal Nath, Motilal Vohra, Shyama Charan Shukla, Suresh Pachouri and Sushil Kumar Shinde have all made intensive tours in the region.
BJP president Kushabhau Thakre, Home Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani, Minister of State for Human Resources Development Uma Bharati, Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Pramod Mahajan, MP, have all made whirlwind tours in the region.
Besides Deputy Chief Minister Subhash Yadav, eight other ministers in the Digvijay Singh government -- Narendra Nahta (Manasa), Subhash Sojatia (Garoth), Jamuna Devi (Kukshi), Pratap Singh Baghel (Dharampuri), Mahendra Singh Kalukheda (Javra), Motilal Dave (Ratlam-Rural), Vijay Laxmi Sadho (Maheshwar) and Hukum Singh Karada (Shajapur) -- are in the fray.
Former chief ministers Kailash Joshi (Bagli) and Virendra Kumar Saklecha (Javad), leader of the Opposition Vikram Verma (Dhar) and deputy speaker Bherulal Patidar (Mhow) are also in the contest, besides chairmen of three corporations.
State BJP Yuva Morcha president Tukoji Rao Pawar is contesting from Dewas.
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