Shyam Patel, a Congress worker who was among the protestors who had blackened posters of the party candidate, burnt his effigy and smashed windshield of his car, is going door-to-door seeking votes for the grand old party candidate in Khategaon. “People of the state are wanting to unseat the saffron party and vote Congress to power. With such a situation in the state, even if I did not want Deepak Joshi to be our candidate, I have accepted him and am now working for his victory as every vote matters for formation of government,” he said.
Joshi, who initially appeared a weak choice of Congress from Khategaon, is gaining strength, giving a tough fight to BJP candidate and sitting MLA Aashish Sharma.
Joshi is son of former chief minister and BJP heavyweight Kailash Joshi. A three-time MLA Deepak Joshi had quit BJP and joined Congress about six months ago. The grand old party gave him a ticket from Khategaon which is one of the five constituencies in Dewas district. The other constituencies include Dewas city, Bagli, Hatpipliya and Sonkatch.
While Dewas, Khategaon, Bagli are strongholds of BJP, Hatpipliya and Sonkatch generally like changing their representatives in the state assembly.
In 2018, BJP had won Dewas, Khategaon and Bagli whereas Congress emerged victorious in Sonkatch and Hatpipliya. However, Hatpipliya MLA Manoj Chaudhary resigned and crossed over to BJP in 2020. He later contested by-poll on the BJP ticket and won making BJP-4 and Congress-1 in this district.
As BJP and Congress are in neck-and-neck fight in the state, this Free Press correspondent toured each constituency in Dewas district to figure out who has better chances of winning.
While BJP looks strong in Dewas, Hatpipliya and Bagli, Congress chances of retaining the Sonkatch seat is high. The contest in Khategaon is very close. Bagli is reserved for ST candidates whereas Sonkatch is meant for SC candidates. The Remaining three seats are unreserved.
Dewas doesn’t seem to be looking for change
While enjoying morning breakfast at Tripuati Restaurant behind the bus stand, Anil Shangvi -- perhaps a supporter of Congress – declares that Dewas is looking for a change this time around. “One family (Paur family) has been representing this seat since 1990. Now, Pradeep Choudhary of Congress should be given a chance,” he says but others present at the restaurant defer. “Dewas isn’t looking for change. BJP’s candidate Gyatri Raje Paur will prevail,” they said. That Paur will win is a general opinion of most voters, this correspondent talked to, in Dewas city.
This seat is a stronghold of BJP. BJP’s Tukojirao Paur had wrested this seat from Congress in 1990 and represented it till his demise in 2015. His wife Gyatri Raje contested by-poll and emerged victorious. She won the 2018 assembly election also. Congress hasn't repeated candidates in assembly elections in the last two decades. There are a total of 2, 81,730 voters, including 1,42,304 males and 1,39,421 female voters. Will Choudhary be able to change Congress' misfortune on this seat? Result on December 3.
Baghel unlikely to settle score this time too
At famous Wednesday haat in Hatpipliya, the most sold this week was the hot topic of on-going contest between BJP’s Manoj Chaudhary and Rajveer Singh Baghel of Congress. Most of the people relishing samosa and kachori in Rajasthan Sweets and Namkeen at Devghad/Devgarh Square were of the view that Chaudhary will win. At a stone throw is located Mamaji’s paan shop, there too customers were of the opinion that Chaudhary is going stronger than his opponent Baghel. “There are three reasons for it. First, Chaudhary comes from the Khati community which is a dominant community in Hatpipliya. Second, he is down to earth and remains in touch with people and third, the Ladli Behan Scheme has turned the tide in favour of BJP on this seat,” one of the customers elaborated.
Chaudhary and Baghel, who had contested by-poll against each other in 2020, are once again in the fray. Baghel had a score to settle with Chaudhary. His father Rajendra Singh Baghel had lost election against BJP’s Deepak Joshi in 2008 as Manoj’s father Narayan Chaudhary had rebelled against Congress and contested polls as an independent. Baghel lost the election by 220 votes. Narayan Chaudhary polled 21,161 votes. Congress had given Rajveer a chance against Manoj to take revenge in the 2022 by-poll but the former failed. Congress had given one more chance to Rajveer against Manoj. Will Rajveer be able to taste success? Doesn’t look so on the ground.
Neck-and-neck between Joshi and Sharma
If we look at the protests against candidates during this election, the one that took place against Congress candidate Deepak Joshi stands as the biggest one in terms of magnitude. Despite stiff opposition from local Congress leaders, Joshi has managed to gain ground in Khategaon and now is giving a tough fight to two-time MLA and BJP candidate Aashish Sharma. In this Brahmin-dominated constituency, both the ruling BJP and the main opposition have fielded Brahmin candidates. While Sharma is a local man, Joshi is an outsider. “Being an outsider is the weak point of Joshi whereas local anti-incumbency is concerning for Sharma,” says a shop owner in Khategaon. In this bastion of the saffron party, the Congress managed to win only one election in the last 40 years. Congress candidate Kailash Kundal won the election from this seat in 1993. Can Joshi do what Kundal did for Congress in 1993? Only time can answer that question.
Ladli Behna Yojana could be a vote-puller
It’s a contest between BJP’s Murli Bhawra and Gopal Bhosle on this bastion of the saffron party. The tallest leader of this constituency BJP’s Kailash Joshi had won this seat five times. BJP had lost this seat only once and that was in 1998. Congress candidate Shyam Holani had defeated Joshi. After Joshi’s demise, his son Deepak Joshi wrested the seat back from Holani in 2003. In 2008, this seat was reserved for ST candidate. While is Bhosle raising unemployment and corruption issues, Bhawra, a former teacher, is seeking a vote on development works done by the BJP. Interestingly, voters here believe that Ladli Behna Yojana will be the vote-puller. “Many tribal and other women have received the third installment of Rs 1250 under the government scheme. The Rs 1250 monthly allowance makes Rs 15000 a year. At least for the next five years, they will get this amount if the BJP is again voted to power. So, they are unlikely to vote for a change,” says a government school teacher. There are a total of 254313 voters, including 130114 male and 124195 female voters.
Five-time MLA Verma on strong footing
BJP has fielded Rajesh Sonkar against Congress senior leader and five-time MLA Sajjan Singh Verma. Both the candidates are Indoreans who are fighting out on the field of Sonkatch. Voters say that the odds are in favour of Verma. “With the high anti-incumbency wave against Shivraj Singh Chouhan government, the voters of Sonkatch are unlikely to go for change of their representative in state assembly. Hence, it looks like Verma will retain the seat,” says a local businessman. Many others agree with this view. “If Congress voted to power, Verma will again become minister which will further speed up development of Sonkatch. So, Verma could emerge as a winner again,” a government employee says. The Congress leader first won election from this seat in 1985. He was then elected from this seat in 1998, 2003 and 2008. He had to defeat twice -- first against Surendra Verma in 1993 and second against Rajendra Verma in 2013.