Though the main fight here is between BJP and Congress, this constituency has dedicated voters of both Samajwadi Party (SP) as well as Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and a multi-cornered contest is possible.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, BJP’s Bodhram Bhagat had defeated Congress’ Hina Kawre by 96,000 votes. SP candidate Anubha Munjare had secured nearly 1 lakh votes while the BSP candidate had also got around 48,000 votes.
Five times BJP has won the Lok Sabha seat in a row but it’s not going to be an easy task for the party to win the upcoming election.
The reason is that BJP decided not to field its sitting MP Bodh Singh Bhagat and instead gave ticket to Dhal Singh Bisen. This has angered Bhagat. His supporters claim that he will fight the election as an independent candidate.
When Bisen came to the town, Bhagat’s supporters didn’t let him enter the party office and put a lock there. Efforts of senior leaders to persuade Bhagat, have failed.
Apart from Bhagat, another veteran leader and former MP Gaurishankar Bisen also wanted ticket for his daughter, Mausam. His supporters have reportedly joined hands with Bhagat, against the official candidate–Dhal Singh Bisen.
Congress has fielded Madhu Bhagat and it’s no cakewalk for him either. He has lost the Assembly election even though the party had performed well in the region.
Of the eight Assembly constituencies that fall under Balaghat Lok Sabha seat, Congress had four and BJP 3. An independent who supports Congress had won the eighth seat.
Samajwadi Party hadn’t won any of the seats but its candidates got around 1 lakh votes in the Assembly election as well–giving tough fight to winning candidates in two constituencies.
If the Assembly election trend continues then BJP faces a big challenge. However, a lot will depend on whether it will be a multi-cornered fight again in 2019!
Right now, SP and BSP seem to be in no mood to abide by their alliance rules here, and both the parties are adamant that they would field their candidates from Balaghat. It was a Congress’ stronghold in earlier years.
In 1951, CD Gautam had won the election. He won the seat for the second time in 1957. But in 1962, Praja Socialist Party (PSP) leader Bholaram Ramji defeated Congress’ Shankar Lal Tiwari.
In 1967, Congress again fielded CD Gautam, who defeated Republican Party of India (RPI) candidate RC Bhanware. In 1971, Gautam won his fourth election, defeating Bhanware.
But during the Janata wave, Gautam lost to Republican Party of India (K) candidate Kachrulal Jain in 1977. In 1980 and 1984, Congress’ Nandkishore Sharma won the seat.
But in 1989, Kankar Munjare, contesting as an independent candidate, defeated Janata Dal’s KD Deshmukh. In 1991, Congress fielded Vishveshwar Bhagat who defeated BJP’s Gaurishankar Bisen by 56,000 votes.
Bhagat again defeated Bisen in 1996 by just 1,256 votes. In 1998, BJP first won the seat. Bisen defeated Vishveshwar Bhagat by around 25,000 votes. In 1999, BJP fielded Prahlad Patel who also defeated Bhagat (margin of 21,000 votes).
In 2004, Bisen defeated Janta Party’s Kankar Munjare by nearly 88,000 votes. BJP’s fourth straight victory was in 2009 when KD Deshmukh defeated Congress’ Vishveshwar Bhagat. The victory margin was 40,000 votes.
In the last election, Congress fielded Hina Kawre who gave a strong fight to BJP’s Bodh Singh Bhagat but lost. BJP has decided not to field Bhagat, replacing him with Dhal Singh Bisen.
Lack of development and poor health services are among the major issues in Balaghat, a Naxal infested district. People want educational institutions of repute apart from medical college.
They complain that elections come and go but the area remains backward. They have to go to cities in neighbouring states—Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra for treatment.
In rural areas, the situation is even bad. Residents talk about need for bridges and want broad gauge railway line to Jabalpur.
Rice mills, poha units and several small factories have been closing down, resulting in people migrating from here. Hence, they want industries so that people can have jobs.
Another election is on cards now. Will the elected representative deliver? This is one question remains unanswered in Balaghat.