Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Ex-IAS Officer Fends For Himself Against BJP's VD Sharma As INDIA Bloc Campaign Falters In Khajuraho

Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Ex-IAS Officer Fends For Himself Against BJP's VD Sharma As INDIA Bloc Campaign Falters In Khajuraho

Prajapati, a retired IAS officer, belongs to the All India Forward Bloc.

PTIUpdated: Wednesday, April 24, 2024, 11:03 AM IST
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RB Prajapati |

Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh): INDIA alliance's nominee from Khajuraho Lok Sabha constituency in Madhya Pradesh, RB Prajapati, is facing an uphill task of turning the tables on BJP candidate V D Sharma, who won the seat in 2019 by bagging 8,11,135 votes and is largely waging a lone battle.

Prajapati, a retired IAS officer, belongs to the All India Forward Bloc. He was the last-minute pick of the opposition INDIA alliance after Samajwadi Party leader Mira Yadav's nomination was rejected during scrutiny of forms for the second phase of general elections.

This is only the second instance in the last 15 years in MP wherein the nomination of a contestant from the main opposition party for Lok Sabha polls has been rejected.

In 2009, the nomination of Congress candidate Rajkumar Patel was rejected on technical grounds from the Vidisha constituency.

BJP candidate the late Sushma Swaraj who was in the fray at that time won the seat by a margin of 3.90 lakh votes by defeating Samajwadi Party candidate Munavvar Saleem.

Khajuraho seat, situated in the Bundelkhand region along the MP-UP border, was initially allotted to Mira Yadav but her nomination papers were rejected during scrutiny, forcing the opposition bloc to launch a hunt for a candidate to challenge Sharma, who heads the state BJP unit.

The INDIA alliance finally extended its support to Prajapati.

The contrast, however, is conspicuous. Prajapati polled only 698 votes in the election he contested from Chandla seat in Chhatarpur district of MP in 2023 on the Rashtravadi Bharat Party ticket.

On the other hand, VD Sharma had crushed his Congress opponent Kavita Singh in 2019 from Khajuraho by a staggering margin of 4,92,382 votes.

Asked about the listless campaigning, Prajapati said there is a wave against the BJP in the Khajuraho constituency.

Interestingly, Prajapati was seen campaigning with a few supporters with no major rally organised in his support.

"It's not me who is contesting this election but the real candidate is the people who are up against the ruling regime," Prajapati said.

He said INDIA bloc allies have been campaigning for him.

Prajapati, who is seen campaigning alone along with a couple of supporters, had caused a flutter when he claimed that BJP leaders offered him a post in the state government if he pulled out of the race, a charge refuted by BJP candidate Sharma.

"There is no question of pressuring anyone. BJP loves to contest elections," Sharma added.

Queried on BJP's electoral prospects, state BJP spokesman Pankaj Chaturvedi told PTI that irrespective of whether the candidate belongs to Congress or SP, Sharma would win with an overwhelming majority.

"He is set to register another win. Sharma had won the Khajuraho seat in 2019 by a margin of 4.93 lakh votes. We lost only 173 out of 2,293 booths in the previous elections. We will have all booths with a higher margin this time," he said.

Chaturvedi cited news reports to claim SP chief Akhilesh Yadav suspected Congress's role in the rejection of Mira Yadav's nomination form.

However, SP national spokesman Yash Bharatiya claimed all allies of the INDIA bloc are working in sync.

"Former MLA Mira Yadav was nominated (from Khajuraho) in consultation with Congress leaders and on demand of local voters. Congress leaders were present when Yadav filed her nomination," Bharatiya told PTI as he refuted the allegation of Congress' role in the rejection of the nomination.

Bharatiya claimed people are angry against BJP candidate Sharma.

He alleged Sharma, an outsider, spread casteism in the area. "Local people faced harassment and they are angry against Sharma," Bharatiya alleged.

He was apparently referring to Sharma's home district. A Brahmin leader, Sharma belongs to Morena district in the Chambal region.

Prajapati's candidature also caused rumblings in the INDIA bloc.

"There is anger against Sharma, who got the nomination form of INDIA bloc candidate cancelled. The SP candidate was strong but there are stronger Congress candidates, who could have posed a challenge to the BJP candidate as there is a two-party system in Madhya Pradesh," Khajuraho district Congress working president Anish Khan told PTI.

He, however, quickly added that Congress leaders are campaigning for Prajapati as he is the nominee of the INDIA bloc.

Khajuraho was represented by former Union minister Uma Bharti four times between 1989 to 1998. It covers eight assembly constituencies spread in three districts - Chhatarpur, Panna of Bundelkhand and Katni of Mahakoshal region.

The BJP retained Khajuraho in the Lok Sabha elections after 2004. In the 12 contests after 1977, the Congress could win this parliamentary constituency only on three occasions in 1980, 1984 and 1999.

The BJP won all assembly segments that fall under the Khajuraho LS constituency in the 2023 state elections with a collective victory margin of more than 1.35 lakh.

Of the 19.94 lakh eligible voters in Khajuraho, 10.45 lakh are men and 9.48 lakh women.

OBC communities, including Lodhis, Patels and Yadavs, and Scheduled Caste voters are dominant caste blocks. Brahmins and Thakurs also form a sizable chunk of voters.

Khajuraho and five other constituencies, including Tikamgarh, Damoh, Satna, Rewa, and Hoshangabad, will go to polls in the second phase of general elections in Madhya Pradesh on April 26.

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