Political stakes are high for former Chief Minister Kamal Nath in the bypolls for 28 Assembly seats in Madhya Pradesh and for the Congress in neighbouring Gujarat, where eight seats are vacant.
All these seats were in Congress' kitty after the Assembly elections, but slipped out of its hands after the party MLAs resigned -- in Madhya Pradesh, they opted to support Jyotiraditya Scindia in March 2020 and walk into the camp of a waiting BJP to ensure the fall of the then government led by Kamal Nath; and in Gujarat, they resigned to ensure the defeat of the Congress nominee in the contest for the second Rajya Sabha seat in June 2020.
The Congress will need to bag all the 28 seats in Madhya Pradesh to again get a majority in the Assembly, which is a tough task. The party has already announced 24 candidates.
On the other hand, the ruling BJP needs only nine seats to reach the magic figures of 116. In case the Congress wins less than 28 seats but manages around 24, it will still be in the game. Otherwise, it will have to depend on Independents, two MLAs of Bahujan Samaj Party and the lone Samajwadi Party MLA.
In the 230-member Madhya Pradesh Assembly, the BJP has 107 MLAs, Congress 88, BSP 2, SP 1 while 4 are Independents.
"The Congress will come back to power again. We will defeat the BJP on these seats. The people will give a befitting reply to those who dishonoured the public mandate and murdered democratic values," Kamal Nath said.
Congress leaders Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh are visiting each of the 28 Assembly segments to ensure their party's victory, though it remains to be seen what they can do since most vacant seats are in the Gwalior-Chambal belt -- considered a Scindia stronghold.
However, the Congress is banking on the fact that the belt has a sizeable population of Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Other Backward Classes (OBCs). The party is also hopeful of reaping the public goodwill due to waiver of farm loans announced by then Chief Minister Kamal Nath and the ongoing agitation by the farmers over the new farm laws.
In Gujarat, the Congress MLAs had resigned, which led to the defeat of Congress leader Bharat Singh Solanki on one Rajya Sabha seat. Had all these MLAs remained in the Congress, it could have won the second RS seat in Gujarat as well.
Congress leader Rajeev Satav, who is in-charge of Gujarat party affairs, said, "I will meet leaders of various frontal organisations, cells and departments and district presidents of the Congress. Looking forward to having substantial discussions with the party leaders and workers."
Apart from Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, seven Assembly seats are also vacant in Uttar Pradesh, two each in Jharkhand, Karnataka, Manipur, Nagaland and Odisha, and one each in Chhattisgarh, Haryana, and Telangana.
Besides, one parliamentary seat in Bihar and two Assembly seats in Manipur will also go for bypolls on November 7. The counting of votes will be take place on November 10.
The EC has decided not to hold by-elections in seven constituencies in four states. Polling for these seats will be held early next year.