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March 6, 1998


When the giants fell

The election to the 12th Lok Sabha will go down in history as the one which changed the fortunes of several political giants in Madhya Pradesh.

While senior Congress leaders like Arjun Singh and Vidya Charan Shukla, Bharatiya Janata Party stalwarts Sunderlal Patwa and Kailash Joshi and Bahujan Samaj Party general secretary Arvind Netam had to taste defeat, Congress general secretary Madhavrao Scindia earned the distinction of winning eight Lok Sabha elections from the state, though by a much reduced margin.

Congress Working Committee member Arjun Singh's defeat from Hoshangabad is undoubtedly a major setback for the Congress camp. In the 1996 election, Singh had contested from Satna on an All-India Indira Congress (Tiwari) ticket, and was relegated to the third position after a BSP nominee, Sukhlal Kushwaha, won the seat.

Taking no chances this time, Arjun Singh changed his constituency to Hoshangabad to take on former Union minister Sartaj Singh of the BJP, a three-time winner from Hoshangabad. Sartaj Singh defeated Arjun Singh by over 69,000 votes, thus winning the seat for the fourth consecutive time. In 1996, Sartaj Singh defeated Congress nominee Rameshwar Nekhra by 52,000 votes.

In Raipur, the Congress nominee, former Union minister Vidya Charan Shukla, was trounced by BJP candidate Ramesh Bais by more than 83,000 votes.

Shukla did not contest the 1996 poll after the Congress high command denied him a ticket. This was due to the Central Bureau of Investigation's chargesheet against him in the controversial hawala case. The Congress fielded Dhanendra Sahu, Shukla's staunch supporter, in lieu, but Sahu was defeated by Ramesh Bais by 50,000 votes.

In a 1997 by-election, senior BJP leader and former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Sunderlal Patwa wrested the Chhindwara Lok Sabha seat, a Congress bastion since Independence. Even during the 1977 anti-Congress wave, Chhindwara alone among the state's 40 constituencies stood by the Congress. In the 1996 Lok Sabha election, former Union minister Kamal Nath was forced out of the race after being linked to the hawala case. His wife, Alka Nath, was given the ticket and she won.

Later, she vacated the seat to enable her husband to enter the Lok Sabha via a by-election. The BJP sprang a surprise at the last moment by nominating Sunderlal Patwa, who won by 37,000 votes.

However, the Chhindwara voters, who have visited polling booths annually since 1996, reposed their faith in Kamal Nath this time round, giving him a victory margin of 153,000 votes.

Similarly, another former BJP chief minister, Kailash Joshi, who had set a record of sorts by winning eight times in succession from the Bagli assembly segment in Dewas district, failed to enter the Lok Sabha in his debut attempt.

He lost to Chief Minister Digvijay Singh's younger brother Laxman Singh (Congress) from Rajgarh constituency by more than 56,000 votes.

Arvind Netam was the lone candidate contesting from two constituencies in the state. In both -- Janjgir and Kanker -- he suffered the ignominy of not only coming third, but of forfeiting his deposits also. During the election campaign, BSP supremo Kanshi Ram had projected Netam as the party's candidate for chief ministership after the state's assembly election, scheduled for later this year.

Among the victorious candidates, Madhavrao Scindia has earned the distinction of entering the Lok Sabha eight times in a row, but from two constituencies. He contested his maiden election in 1971 as a Jan Sangh candidate from Guna, which he retained 1977 as an Independent, and in 1980 as a Congress nominee.

However, in 1984, the Congress shifted Scindia to Gwalior to take on veteran BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Scindia, who trounced Vajpayee by over 175,000 votes then, has stayed on with Gwalior.

Denied a Congress ticket in 1996 for his alleged links in the hawala case, Scindia floated his own party -- the Madhya Pradesh Vikas Congress -- and retained the Gwalior seat, defeating his nearest BSP rival Phool Singh Baraiya by 223,000 votes. The BJP did not field a candidate against Scindia in the last election. Scindia returned to the Congress after Sitaram Kesri became party president.

This time, the BJP nominated former Bajrang Dal president Jaibhan Singh Pawaiya who put up a formidable challenge to Scindia in Gwalior. BSP nominee Baraiya was also in the fray. Although the Congress leader retained his seat, his margin of victory dropped down to a mere 26,000 votes.

The election has brought Congress leader and former Uttar Pradesh governor Motilal Vora back into active politics. Vora made his successful maiden entry to the Lok Sabha from Rajnandgaon, wresting the seat from BJP candidate Ashok Sharma by 52,000 votes.

Former state Congress president Parasram Bharadwaj is the lone leader from the state to win six times from the same constituency, under the same party symbol. Invincible since 1980 from the Sarangarh constituency in the Chhatisgarh region, Bharadwaj defeated BJP nominee P R Khute by over 6,000 this time.

Senior tribal leader Dalip Singh Bhuria, who had been winning the Jhabua seat since 1980 on a Congress ticket, crossed over to the BJP after the dissolution of the 11th Lok Sabha. However, the move was a disaster as he lost the election to state Tribal Welfare Minister Kantilal Bhuria of the Congress. Dalip Singh Bhuria's defeat showed that in this election, the party mattered, not the individual.

Another hallmark of the last elections is that all the three women BJP candidates -- Vijaya Raje Scindia (Guna), Uma Bharati (Khajuraho), and Sumitra Mahajan (Indore) -- have registered impressive victories for the fourth time from their respective constituencies.

Three of the four former chief ministers who contested lost; out of 11 former Union ministers, only six made it; and while two ministers from Digvijay Singh's cabinet made it to the 12th Lok Sabha, four failed to do so.


Elections '98

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