Ground report electoral landscape district dhar
Dhar seats 7
Dhar (Madhya Pradesh): In Dhar city, currently witnessing an evenly balanced contest between BJP’s Neena Verma and Prabha Gautam of Congress, a van decked with banners promising nothing less than the Moon passes through Adarsh Marg, playing out a song, "Raju Bhaiya ke saath khadi hai sari nagari Dhara," piercing into the ears of the saffron party workers. Former BJP district president, Rajeev Yadav, aka Raju Bhaiya, rebelled against his own party and threw his hat into the fray, making it tough for the BJP to retain the seat in its own stronghold. His election symbol is a ‘Matchbox’ apparently threatening to ‘burn all hopes’ of BJP. Much to the concern of BJP, Yadav is also getting support from former two-time MLA Karan Singh Pawar, former BJP president Anant Agrawal and many other saffron party leaders. This, however, isn’t an advantage to Congress as its own leader Kuldeep Bundela, son of former MLA Mohan Singh Bundela, is also contesting election as an independent candidate. His candidature threatens to spoil chances of Prabha Gautam, the wife of Balmukund Singh Gautam who lost two elections to Verma.
With political heat escalating across the district, this Free Press correspondent widened his focus to entire Dhar district to discern the direction the electoral wind blowing in the Seven Constituencies of the district in the Malwa region as it holds a crucial position in the power dynamics, accounting for 50 out of the state's 230 seats. Heavily reliant on agriculture, the district is dominated by tribals, who have been a traditional vote bank of Congress. Barring the 2003 elections, Dhar district mainly sent Congress candidates to the state assembly. The district comprises seven constituencies, including five reserved for candidates belonging to Scheduled Tribe - Sardarpur, Gandhwani, Kukshi, Manawar and Dharmpuri; and two unreserved constituencies - Badnawar and Dhar city. The saffron party had won only one out of seven seats i.e. Dhar city in 2018 assembly elections. In 2020, Congress MLA Rajvardhan Singh Dattigaon had resigned and crossed over to BJP. He later contested by-polls on BJP ticket and won making it 2-5 in this district. As both the arch rivals get into the big political fight, Dhar district comes into the focus yet again. While Congress looks strong on Gandhvani and Sardarpur seats, BJP has an edge in Dharmapuri. In other seats, it is tough battle among candidates.
Dhar: Two rebels add complexity to contest between two women
In this fortress of Congress, Dhar city had become an island of BJP in 2018 assembly elections. No matter what, the BJP managed to win this seat somehow. However, it faces a big challenge to save the seat as rebel Rajeev Yadav did not pull out of the election despite top leadership of the party tried every bit. He is quite a popular leader having a strong presence in the city and industrial area Pithampur which is part of the city. For BJP candidate and three-time MLA Neena Verma, who had reached the assembly in 2008 by margin of one vote, Yadav is proving to be a nightmare. While for the Congress, its rebel leader Kuldeep Bundela, son of MLA Mohan Singh Bundela, has changed the poll equations for the party candidate Prabha Gautam. Bundela was reportedly promised the ticket by Congress heavyweight Digvijaya Singh but the party eventually went ahead with Prabha Gautam. “This constituency has a total 257888 voters. If the voting percentage stood about 65 per cent, any candidate -- given two rebels in the fight -- taking away about 50000 to 55000 votes will win the election,” said political commentator Ashok Mhale.
Badnawar: Rajvardhan Singh Dattigaon (BJP) - Sitting MLA |
Badnawar: It’s neck-and-neck between Dattigaon & Shekhawat
This seat is in focus as Jyotiraditya Scindia’s staunch ally Rajvardhan Singh Dattigaon is in a neck-and-neck contest with Bhanwar Singh Shekhawat. This is not the first time the two are contesting against each other. They previously fought against each other twice – one in 2013 and another in 2018. In 2013, Shekhawat was a BJP candidate and Dattigaon fought on Congress ticket. Shekhawat had won the election by 9,812 votes. When the two again came face to face, a BJP rebel Rajesh Agrawal also entered the poll ring spoiling Shekhawat’s party. In the triangular battle, Dattigaon won election by 41,506 votes. Shekhawat polled 42,993 and Agrawal 30,976 votes. The two –Dattigaon and Shekhawat - now have switched sides; Dattigaon is contesting election on BJP’s ticket and Shekhwat on Congress. Voters of this constituency say it is difficult to predict who is going to win the election. While Dattigaon is the son of soil, Shekhawat is an outsider. He comes from Indore. “The main negative point of Shekhawat is that he is an outsider whereas Dattigaon’s weak point is that he is not accessible to common man. If anything goes against Dattigaon it will be his unapproachability,” said a shopkeeper even as others in his shop agreed with him.
SARDARPUR Pratap Grewal Sitting MLA Congress margin 36,000 votes
Sardarpur: Grewal, Bhuriya to battle it out once again
It’s between Pratap Grewal of Congress and BJP’s Welsingh Bhuriya in this constituency. The two had contested election against each other in 2013 also. That time, Bhuriya had won the election by 529 votes. In 2018, Grewal had won the seat against BJP’s Sanjay Singh Baghel by more than 36,000 votes. This time, BJP had again brought Bhuriya against sitting MLA Grewal. Voters are divided and confused about who to vote for in this tribal seat. They admit to the fact that the two candidates during their tenure as MLA worked towards improving roads, electricity and health infrastructure.
“Here people do have general but personal issues. They are going to vote on their individual chord with the candidates,” an eatery owner says. “Grewal is an easy going man while Bhuriya has ego issues,” states a medical store owner.
MANAWAR Hiralal Alawa Sitting MLA Cong
Manawar: Two professionals- doctor & engineer locked in fight
JAYS founder and Congress young tribal face, Hiralal Alawa -- who is a doctor by profession – is fighting against 27-year-old Shivram Kannoj, a BTech degree holder. Though Alawa had wrested the seat from three-time MLA Ranjana Baghel in 2018 by a record 39,501 votes, he is getting a tough fight from Kannoj. “That too, when Baghel is playing out against her own party candidate, Kannoj ,” said people sitting at a tea stall. The battle here is also evenly balanced with slight advantage to younger candidate i.e. Kannoj. “Can’t sense much but it seems people here will vote for change,” said an eatery owner.
GANDHVANI Umang Singhar Congress MLA
Gandhwani: Singhar again has fair chances
Carved out of two different constituencies in Dhar district in 2008, Gandhwani has sent Congress leader Umang Singhar to the assembly in all three last elections. The story is set to repeat as BJP has once again fielded Sardarsingh Mehda, who won two back-to-back assembly elections against Singhar. There is no anti-incumbency against Singhar who had even revolted against Congress heavyweight Digvijaya Singh when the latter built up pressure on Singhar, who served as a minister in Kamal Nath government. He is natural and undisputed leader of Congress in Gandhwani.
KUKSHI Surendra Singh ‘Honey’ Baghel - Sitting MLA Cong
Kukshi: Young lad giving tough fight to experienced
In the last 11 Assembly elections, this constituency has been represented by 10 Congress legislators. Jamuna Devi, a five time MLA from this seat suffered defeat against Ranjana Baghel in 1990. After that, Congress won all six elections. Congress has retained sitting MLA Surendra Singh ‘Honey’ Baghel. This time he is getting a tough fight from BJP candidate Jagdish Patel, a young lad. Patel is getting support from people wanting a change but only the time will tell as voters here are maintaining silence.
DHARAMPURI: Panchilal Meda Sitting Cong MLA
Dharampuri: Advantage BJP on This seat
Two-time MLA Panchilal Meda of Congress is again in fight with Kalusingh Thakur of BJP after a gap of 10 years. Kalusingh had defeated Meda in 2013 but was denied a ticket from this seat in 2018. Now, the two are again in fight but the election looks tilted towards the BJP candidate as Congress leader Raju Ben, who comes for the dominant Bhil tribal community in the constituency, is running as an independent. She had won the panchayat election by a significant vote margin. At a pan shop, where government employees gather they talk about chances of Thakur winning having an edge: Meda is a down to earth man but we need someone who is vocal about the issues of Dharampuri. Meda is certainly not that man; they say and others agree.