This would be the second of the four rounds of polling in MP.
Bhopal: Campaigning ended on Saturday evening for the seven seats going to poll in the fifth phase on May 6 in Bundelkhand, Vindhya and Narmada regions of Madhya Pradesh. This would be the second of the four rounds of polling in MP. The remaining two phases are scheduled for May 12 and May 19.
The Congress has fielded new faces in all seven seats, while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has put its bet on old hands in five seats.
With poling for more than 60 per cent seats over, star campaigners, like Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress President Rahul Gandhi and BJP chief Amit Shah, made electoral sorties in MP in quick succession.
The BJP, which won all these seven seats in 2014, replaced four candidates and RSS stamp is pronounced in its selections. There is growing resentment against the candidates chosen for Khajuraho and Betul, where (like Bhopal) the sole merit for selection is candidates' proximity to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
After the first phase witnessed complaints of sabotage from the BJP candidates, the leadership is keen to ensure better booth management this time.
Damoh, Tikamgarh and Khjuraho, the three seats in the Bundelkhand region gearing up for the polling, have strong BJP leaning.
The BJP has held Damoh since 1989. The Congress has fielded Pratap Singh Lodhi here against Prahlad Patel a two-time winner. The Congress has changed its candidate on each of the past four occasions. It ignored the recent acquisition from the BJP, Dr Ramkrishna Kusmaria, who won the seat twice.
Tikamgarh also has a contest between experience and fresh face. The BJP has retained Union minister Virendra Khatik, seeking a third term, while the Congress has nominated state women's Congress Secretary Kiran Ahirwar. An untested Ahirwar is toiling on gamely hoping to benefit from resentment against Khatik over his long incumbency.
Khajuraho boasts of having returned former Chief Minister and Union minister Uma Bharti four times. Both the Congress and the BJP have fielded new faces this time. The RSS which had insisted on fielding Vishnu Dutt Sharma in the face of near rebellion in Bhopal has shifted him to Khajuraho. The party has overlooked protests with some party members burning Sharma's effigies.
The Congress has settled for Kavita Singh, wife of Vikram Singh Natiraja, MLA from Raj Nagar. Natiraja hails from an influential Royal family in the neighbourhood. It will be interesting to see how the RSS ensures victory of Sharma who has no connection with the constituency.
The BJP has dominated the constituency since in 1989 and has returned the Congress candidate Satyavrat Chaturvedi once from 1999 to 2004. His mother, Vidyawati Chaturvedi, was elected twice in the early 1980s. Former state minister Nagendra Singh, member of outgoing Lok Sabha, has apparently been denied ticket over incumbency fatigue.
The two Vindhya constituencies in the second round of polling are Rewa and Satna. Though the constituencies have only one Assembly segment each reserved for Scheduled Castes, the Bahujan Samaj Party wields immense influence here. Rewa has returned a BSP member to the Lok Sabha thrice, while Satna has elected a BSP candidate once.
Sitting MP from Rewa Janardan Mishra, faces Siddharth Tiwari, son of 2014 runner-up Sunderlal Tiwari who died recently. The Tiwaris are a prominent political family with the patriarch Srinivas Tiwari (Sunderlal's father) having been the Assembly Speaker for over a decade. The contest is triangular with Vikas Patel of the BSP making a strong presence.
In Satna, Ganesh Singh is in the fray for a fourth term. He faces Rajaram Tripathi who earlier contested on the Samajwadi Party ticket. Patels and Brahmins dominate the electoral scene in the region. Caste has played a key in the region all along since formation of MP.
The other two seats Hoshangabad and Betul lie across the Vindhyachal ranges on the gateway to south. They were part of the old MP, which had its capital in Nagpur.
Rao Udaypratap Singh, who won the 2009 election from Hoshangabad on the Congress ticket, switched to the BJP and won the 2014 battle. The BJP has been winning the seat since 1989 except for 2009.
Significantly, Udaypratap who won the seat with a margin of 19,000 votes in 2009 saw 17 per cent swing in his favour in 2014 to win by nearly 3.8 lakh votes. He would find it hard to match that performance. The Congress has overlooked the five-time representative of Hoshangabad, Sartaj Singh, who switched from the BJP not long ago. It has fielded a new face Shailendra Dewan.
In Betul, reserved for Scheduled Tribe, the Congress has had a history of approaching each election with a new face for past many terms. The Congress has nominated Ramu Tekam against the RSS choice of Durgadas Uikey. Two-term MP Jyoti Dhurve has been disqualified following controversy over her ST certificate.
The BJP's move to change the narrative to tune it to the RSS agenda is likely to have a bearing on elections. It is Modi versus Congress now on and the BJP supporters do realise Modi's popularity has waned considerably since 2014.