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Key BJP candidates to watch out for in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly polls

With the Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections around the corner, the BJP has intensified its efforts by roping in its union leaders

Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Jyotiraditya Scindia

Nandini Singh New Delhi
The battle for Madhya Pradesh is crucial for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), as the party has been in power in the state for almost two decades, except for a little more than a year (December 2018 to March 2020). Shivraj Singh Chouhan has served as chief minister throughout.

This time, though, the party is fighting anti-incumbency and internal conflicts, with the Centre's move to bring in prominent names from the Centre causing discontent and resignations.

Amid the infighting, here's a look at all the top BJP candidates in the upcoming Madhya Pradesh Assembly election.

Shivraj Singh Chouhan

Like many others in the BJP, Shivraj Singh Chouhan's story starts with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

Chouhan was born into a farmer's family in Sehore district and joined the organisation in 1972. He was a member of the RSS student wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and then the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) during his time as a student at Barkatullah University in Bhopal.

In 1991, he was elected from the Vidisha constituency, a seat he won three more times.

Chouhan became chief minister for the first time in 2005, succeeding Babu Lal Gaur, who had taken over just a year earlier when his predecessor Uma Bharti, was issued an arrest warrant concerning the 1994 Hubli riots.

Chouhan's tenure saw a marked shift from the controversial stint of Uma Bharti, with his emphasis on grassroots policies and enthusiasm to connect with the public.

Soon, he became one of the tallest leaders within the BJP with his strong focus on his OBC credentials – a strategy that helped weaken the Congress base within the community.

In 2014, when the BJP looked around for a new prime minister face, Chouhan was one of the names mentioned as a possible candidate. Eventually, of course, Narendra Modi would win the contest hands down.

Chouhan's stature suffered further damage after the BJP lost the 2018 Assembly elections, ending his tenure. Kamal Nath-led Congress came to power in 2018. When his government was deposed in 2020, bringing Chouhan back to power, the Delhi leadership staged the uprising of Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia and his group. This weakened Chouhan even more.

The CM is now counting on his pro-women and pro-poor policies to secure him another term. He has also tried to add an aggressive pro-Hindutva image to the mix, proudly owning the moniker "Bulldozer mama".

However, as PM Modi takes over the BJP campaign in the state, Chouhan appears to be receding into the background. He did not lead the party's Jan Ashirwad Yatra, which central leaders exclusively led. And now, the fielding of union ministers and MP heavyweights is seen as a message that the BJP is looking beyond Chouhan for the next chapter.

Jyotiraditya Scindia

Jyotiraditya Scindia, the Union minister of civil aviation and steel in the Narendra Modi government, joined politics in 2002 when he won the Guna Lok Sabha by-poll necessitated due to the death of his father and senior Congress leader Madhavrao Scindia.

He represented Guna from 2002 to 2019, when he lost the seat to his former loyalist K P Yadav.

He also served as a Minister of State for Communications, Commerce and Industry and power in the second Manmohan Singh ministry from 2012 to 2014. In 2020, he switched to the BJP and was elected to the Rajya Sabha.

Scindia's rebellion remains the main attacking point for the Congress and continues to be a sticking point for some BJP leaders who do not want to cede space to former rivals.

Even though at least three of Scindia's supporters have been given tickets by the BJP, those in the second rung of power have been feuding with BJP leaders. Over the last few months, several of his loyalists have returned to the Congress and been welcomed with open arms.

Kailash Vijayvargiya

Kailash Vijayvargiya, the BJP national general secretary and veteran Madhya Pradesh politician, recently was in the news after he said that he was "shocked and confused" to see his name from the Indore 1 Assembly seat when the party released its second list of candidates.

Vijayvargiya is recognised as a skilled organiser, and his expertise, ranging from corporator of the Indore Municipal Corporation to minister, is what the party is counting on to break the Congress stronghold in Indore.

In the 2013 Assembly elections, the BJP had swept the region, winning 57 out of the 66 seats, while the Congress won only nine. However, in 2018, the Congress won 36 seats here.

As a six-time MLA from Indore, who won every Assembly election he contested since 1990, Vijayvargiya has held various portfolios in the state Cabinet in the past, including urban development, industries, information technology, and revenue.

In 2014, he was named the BJP's election in-charge for Haryana, leading the party to its first-ever majority in the state that year. In 2015, he was appointed the national general secretary and was given the responsibility of handling the party's affairs in West Bengal. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, he delivered 18 seats to the BJP from Bengal, a significant achievement in a state where the party had little presence.

In the 2021 Assembly elections, the BJP emerged as the main Opposition in Bengal. The CPI(M) and Congress were both wiped out.

Narendra Singh Tomar

Narendra Singh Tomar, the Union minister of agriculture and farmers' welfare, is one of the key candidates fielded by the BJP for the Madhya Pradesh elections.

He is also the convenor of the BJP's election management committee and is expected to troubleshoot the problems that might arise among BJP leaders and Scindia loyalists.

Tomar started his political career in 1980 as the president of the BJYM's Gwalior wing and won his maiden MLA ticket back in 1998.

He also served as state president of the BJP for two terms, in 2006 and 2012. He was an MP from Morena three times and held key portfolios such as Steel, Mines, Labour, Employment, Panchayati Raj, Rural Development, Drinking Water and Sanitation, Agriculture and Farmers' Welfare, and Food Processing at the Centre.

Prahlad Singh Patel

Prahlad Singh Patel, a five-term MP, is currently the minister of state for food processing industries and Jal Shakti.

In an attempt to consolidate the votes of his Lodhi community, Patel will contest from Jalam Singh Patel's Narsinghpur seat.

There is also a buzz that he is a strong contender for CM chair owing to his organisational skills.

Patel, too, started out as a youth activist and rose to become the district president of the BJYM in 1982. In 1986, he was appointed the general secretary of the organisation. He was initially elected to the Lok Sabha from Balaghat in 1989, and he won it again in 1996 and 1999.

In 2003, Patel emerged as a confidant of Uma Bharti after she deposed the decade-old Digvijaya Singh-led Congress government. Soon, Patel moved to Delhi to head the Coal Ministry in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.

When Uma Bharti mounted a rebellion against Shivraj Singh Chouhan after he was picked for the chief ministerial post in 2005, Patel walked out with her as she formed the Bharatiya Janshakti Party. However, in 2009, he returned to the BJP, and in 2014, he won his fourth term as MP from Damoh.

In 2019, he retained the seat with a margin of 300,000 votes.

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First Published: Oct 04 2023 | 7:24 PM IST

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