Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh): By bringing in fresh faces for the November 17 Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections, the Congress has left several, more in the Vindhya region, surprised.
As per the second list of 85 candidates released late on Thursday night, the grand-old party has decided to field Rajendra Sharma from Rewa to take on state minister Rajendra Shukla.
Sharma, who is a businessman, has a clean image. However, he may still face resentment from his own party workers, especially those who were contenders from that particular seat. In its another master stroke; the Congress has fielded Padmesh Gautam against his uncle and the Assembly speaker Girish Gautam.
In the 2022 Zila Panchayat election, Padmesh had defeated Girish Gautam's son Rahul Gautam, and is likely to give a tough contest in Devtalab seat. Rewa's Sirmour seat, which the BJP's Divyaraj Singh won for the last two consecutive elections (2013 and 2018), has Congress fielding Ramgareeb Adivasi.
As the sitting BJP MLA Divyaraj Singh (son of ex-Congress MLA Pushpraj Singh, now in BJP) hails from Rewa's royal family, the Congress has fielded adivasi candidates in Brahmin dominated seats. Ramgareeb, who is an old guard of the Congress, had defeated BJP's strong leader and state minister (Late) Ramakant Tiwari in 2008.
Kamal Nath led-MP Congress has played this master stroke to send a strong message among the tribal (Kol community) as it has a sizable population in several seats of district - Rewa, Mangavan, Devtalab, Sirmore, and Gurh etc. From Semariya Assembly seat of Rewa district, the Congress has fielded BJP's former MLA Abhay Mishra, who will be contesting the election against his arch political rival and sitting BJP MLA K. P. Tripathi.
Mishra, who had switched over to the Congress following a rift with state minister Rajendra Shukla in 2018, returned to BJP two months back only to resign again. He managed to convince the Congress leadership for a ticket from Semaria. Similarly, the Congress has fielded district president Gyan Singh from Sidhi. He will be contesting against two-time BJP MP Riti Pathak.
As the BJP has denied its four-time MLA from Sidhi- Kedarnath Shukla due to the urination controversy that broke out two months back, Shukla wanted to shift into the Congress. However, sensing the sentiments of the tribal community, the Congress refrained from it. Former MLA Kamleshwar Dwivedi was one of the contenders from Sidhi, however, the party decided to field a young and new candidate.
In its second list, the Congress has fielded as many 41 new, sidelining 44 old faces, including those lost and won the previous elections. The party has declared a total 229 candidates for 230 assembly seats in the state. The ruling BJP, which has released its first list of 39 candidates much before the Congress, has announced a total 136 so far in the four separate lists.
At least five BJP leaders, who shifted to the Congress in the past few months, managed to get tickets. These are -- Deepak Joshi, the son of former Chief Minister Kailash Joshi from Khategaon seat of Khandwa district, Abhishek Choukase (Jabalpur Cant) , Bhavar Singh Shekhawat (Badnvar), Samandar Patel (Javad) and Girjashankar Sharma (Hoshangabad).
The Congress replaced its candidate for the Datia Assembly constituency, fielding Rajendra Bharti in place of Avadesh Nayak. He will contest against BJP candidate and Home Minister Narottam Mishra. Bharti, a former MLA, had defeated Mishra in the past but lost the last election by a slender margin