Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh): Madhya Pradesh's Vindhya region was nearly swept by the BJP in the 2018 assembly elections, but it has a history of giving space to parties with different ideological hues - from Communists to the BSP - making the region politically evolved where the Congress will look to improve tally in the upcoming polls and new entrant AAP try to notch up its first win in the state.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is eyeing to enter in the state assembly, possibly through the Vindhya region, which elected the first Lok Sabha member for the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) from Madhya Pradesh in 1991 and also gave representation to Communists in electoral politics.
The region bordering Uttar Pradesh has 30 assembly seats and is spread across nine eastern districts of Madhya Pradesh - Rewa, Shahdol, Satna, Sidhi, Singrauli, Anuppur, Umaria, Maihar and Mauganj (the last two were created recently).
The Congress failed to perform well in the 2018 assembly elections and managed to win only six seats, while the Bharatiya Janata Party's tally stood at an impressive 24.
The AAP has high hopes from the region as it made an impact in the MP politics through Vindhya, winning the mayoral seat of Singrauli in 2022. Now, Singrauli mayor Rani Agrawal, who is also president of the AAP's state unit, is in the fray from the Singrauli assembly seat.
The Arvind Kejriwal-led outfit is a new entrant to the region, which has a record of electing a BSP parliamentarian three times.
The region has elected BSP Lok Sabha MPs three times - Bheem Singh Patel in 1991, Budhasen Patel in 1996 and Deoraj Singh Patel in 2009 - all from the Rewa constituency. The Mayawati-led party won two times from the Gurh assembly seat in 1993 and 1998, and its candidate IMP Verma emerged victorious from Mauganj three times in a row from 1993 to 2003.
BSP candidate Sukhlal Kushwaha emerged as a 'giant killer' when he defeated Congress stalwart and former Union minister Arjun Singh from the Satna Lok Sabha seat in 1996.
The political diversity of the region is also evident from the fact that it elected Ramlakhan Sharma twice as Communist Party of India (Marxist) candidate in 1993 and 2003 and on a Janata Dal ticket in 1990 from the Sirmour assembly seat in Rewa district.
Communist Party of India (CPI) legislator Vishambhar Nath Pandey was elected from Gurh in 1990.
A new political outfit - Vindhya Janata Party - floated by ex-BJP legislator from Maihar, Narayan Tripathi, is contesting elections on assembly seats in the region. Tripathi was elected to the assembly on a Samajwadi Party (SP) ticket in 2003.
Asked about the AAP's poll prospects, the party's former state president and national joint secretary Pankaj Singh told PTI that his outfit is focusing on the region to enter the state assembly.
The AAP has so far announced candidates on 70 seats across the state, 17 of them in Vindhya.
"Our efforts are on to enter the assembly this time but it depends on voters. The Vindhya region has a history of adopting new political ideas. So, focus will be on this region along with other parts of the state," Singh said.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal along with his Punjab counterpart Bhagwant Mann together visited the region twice to campaign for the AAP. Mann also held several public meetings separately in support of AAP candidates.
Senior journalist and political commentator Jairam Shukla said after independence, Vindhya felt the impact of socialist movement helmed by stalwarts like Jayaprakash Narayan, Ram Manohar Lohia and Acharya Narendra Dev, among others.
The socialist movement made inroads into the region as feudal lords got associated with the Congress after independence and faced opposition from common citizens, Shukla remarked.
The journalist said some seats in Vindhya were won by the Socialist Party in initial elections after independence.
Talking about the region's tendency of adopting different political ideologies, Shukla said youths were initially influenced by socialist icons.
The result was that the Congress got defeated on all the eight assembly seats in Sidhi district and two parliamentary constituencies in this backward region after independence, he noted.
"Political awareness in the region can be mainly attributed to the strong socialist movement which saw participation from Other Backward Classes (OBCs), tribals and Dalits, while upper castes stayed with the Congress after independence. This made people aware of the politics of resistance and self-respect against feudal forces," Shukla said.
However, in course of time, the socialist movement got fragmented and its local leaders and supporters drifted towards the Congress. Post-1990, this base moved closer to the BJP, which started winning elections from Vindhya after 1993, Shukla maintained.
"Most of the big leaders of the BJP in Vindhya are either old socialists or former Congressmen. Due to this deep-rooted socialism, the region accepted all political ideologies, including Communists and the Janata Dal (S) of former PM H D Deve Gowda," he said.
When BJP leader and former CM Uma Bharti floated a new political outfit - Bharatiya Janshakti - after leaving the saffron party (she later returned to the organisation), a candidate put up by her won assembly election from Vindhya, Shukla pointed out.
Shukla said the BJP expanded its voter base among OBCs, tribals and Dalits through social engineering after 2003, when the saffron party came to power in Madhya Pradesh.
The BJP has a large chunk of the OBC voter base with it and welfare schemes launched by its government over the years may have an impact on the outcome of the upcoming polls, the political commentator said.
State BJP's media cell co-incharge Anil Patel, who hails from Vindhya, claimed his party will repeat the 2018 performance by winning 24 to 25 seats in the region, given the implementation of various welfare schemes by the state government and also the Centre.
State Congress general secretary Gurmeet Singh Mangu said there is a direct fight between the Congress and BJP in the Vindhya region like the rest of Madhya Pradesh.
"I personally believe the Congress will win up to 22 seats (out of 30) in Vindhya Pradesh. The BJP's electoral graph will go down due to anti-incumbency against its government. There is no scope for other parties," he said.
The BJP has fielded two sitting Lok Sabha MPs in the Vindhya region in the assembly polls - Ganesh Singh from Satna and Riti Pathak from Sidhi.
Voting to elect a new 230-member state assembly will be held on November 17 and counting will be taken up on December 3.