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|November 23, 1998||
Congress banks on newcomers in its battle for Bundelkhand
In the 24 assembly constituencies of Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh, a new-look Congress is all set to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is aiming to repeat its impressive performance at the last two general elections.
To make the contest triangular, the Bahujan Samaj Party has fielded candidates in all the seats. However, none of its candidates had even managed to save their security deposit in the region in the 1993 assembly poll.
Besides, the Samajwadi Party and Iindependents are also in the fray in the region.
The Congress has fielded several newcomers this time, particularly in Sagar district, where for all the eight seats, the party has fielded new faces.
Union Minister of State for Human Resource Development Uma Bharati's brother Swamy Prasad, MP Youth Congress chief Govind Rajput, former ministers Ratnesh Saloman (Congress), Jayant Malaiya, Sudhakar Rao Bapat (both of the BJP) and MP State Road Transport Corporation vice-president Jeevan Patel are among others in the fray.
Pitted against Rajkishore Tiwari (BJP) and Harprasad Patel (Congress) in Chandela, Vijay Bahadur Singh Bundela is making all efforts to keep the Samajwadi Party flag flying. The SP made its presence felt in the state when Bundela captured this seat in the by-election earlier this year.
In the 1996 general election, the BJP had registered an impressive margin over the Congress in all the 24 assembly constituencies of this region. It had repeated its performance in the February 1998 general election with an exception of the Niwadi assembly segment.
In the 1993 Vidhan Sabha poll, of 24 seats in the region, the Congress had bagged 15 seats and the BJP eight.
Uma Bharati's prestige is apparently at stake in Malahra in Chhatarpur district from where her brother Swamy Prasad is trying to wrest the seat from Rajbahadur Singh (Congress).
Locked in a multi-corner contest, Govind Rajput is trying hard in Surkhi (Sagar) against the BJP's sitting legislator Bhupendra Singh. The presence of Dr Mahesh Tiwari, former Congress city general secretary, who is contesting on a Samajwadi Party ticket, may make the task difficult for the state Youth Congress president.
Former minister Jayant Malaiya (BJP) is trying to score a hat-trick from Damoh. His main rival is Ajay Bhaiya Tandan (Congress), though the BSP and the SP candidates are also likely to split some votes.
Ratnesh Saloman (Congress), also a former minister, is in for a tough fight from Sanjay Rai (BJP) in the Nohta seat (Damoh).
The Congress has put up a new face, Arunoday Choubey in Bina (Sagar) against BJP veteran and former minister Sudhakar Bapat, who has won twice (1985 and 1990) out of the four times he has contested. He had lost the last election to Prabhu Singh Thakur (Congress). The presence of BSP and SP candidates would also be a considerable factor in this constituency.
In a quadrangular contest in Rahli (Sagar), Gopal Bhargav (BJP), who has got the rare distinction of scoring a hat-trick from the seat, is mainly pitted against MPSRTC vice-president Jeevan Patel (Congress). In Naryavali (Sagar), the battle is mainly between Dr Ashok Ahirwar (BJP) and R Surendra Prasad Choudhary (Congress).
Five districts -- Chhatarpur, Damoh, Panna, Sagar, Tikamgarh -- of Bundelkhand region account for 24 out of 320 assembly seats of the state.
A total of 218 candidates are in the fray from this region with more than 3.5 million voters. Of these 1.6 million are women.
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