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Several Muslim leaders of Congress, BJP entered parliament from this seat in Madhya Pradesh

Several minority leaders including Ghufran Azam, Aslam Sher Khan, Arif Baig were elected to Parliament from Betul in the past.

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Several Muslim leaders of Congress, BJP entered parliament from this seat in Madhya Pradesh

Over the years, Betul has repeatedly elected BJP candidates and hence it is now considered a safe seat for the party in Madhya Pradesh. The BJP has won the seat seven times in a row and this includes a by-poll too.

The constituency is spread over three districts, including the tribal dominated Betul and parts of Harda and Khandwa. After delimitation, Betul became a seat reserved for candidates belonging to the Scheduled Tribes (ST).

It was in 1991 that Congress had last won from Betul. Since then, BJP has won all the Lok Sabha elections. But the BJP is not taking the 2019 election lightly. The reason is Congress’ performance in the Assembly election.

Both the parties won four seats each in the Assembly polls that were held just a few months ago. While Congress was clearly ahead in Betul especially in Multai, Ghodadongri, Betul city and Bhainsdehi, the BJP took lead in Amla apart from the regions that fall in Khandwa and Harda districts.

Over all, Congress secured more votes than BJP in the Assembly polls, and this is a major cause of concern for the latter. The sitting MP, Jyotri Dhurve, who had won in 2014 election as well as 2009, has been dropped after it was found that her caste certificate was forged.

The party has fielded Durga Das Uikey. He faces Congress’ Ramu Tekam. Uikey apparently got the ticket because of his RSS background and though he has the image of an friendly, approachable person, he has limited political experience. Uikey does not have a strong mass contact with people in the constituency.

The Congress candidate Ramu Tekam had started politics from the grassroots (panchayat) and has experience in local politics. Though he also doesn’t have the image of a big leader, he has support of different factions within the party and is a young face. Also, he is quite popular among tribal youth as he was actively associated with NSUI.

In the past, candidates from outside the region (and even the state) were elected from Betul. Congress’ NKP Salve had defeated Jan Sangh candidate Ray Sundar Lal in the 1967 election. Slave had also won in 1971, when he defeated Vasant Kumar Pandit (Jana Sangh).

Later, in 1977, Lok Dal’s Subhash Ahuja defeated Salve. In the year 1980, Ghufran Azam was elected from parliament from here. He defeated Ahuja who fought on Jan Sangh’s ticket. In the next election, Congress fielded former Olympian and renowned hockey player Aslam Sher Khan.

Khan defeated bureaucrat MN Buch, who contested as an independent. In 1989, the contest was between BJP’s Arif Baig and Congress’ sitting MP Aslam Sher Khan. Baig defeated Khan by around 40,000 votes.

But in 1991, Aslam Sher Khan again won the election from Betul. He defeated Arif Baig (BJP) by a margin of 22,733 votes. In 1996, BJP fielded Vijay Khandelwal who defeated Aslam Sher Khan by 36,000 votes. Khandelwal kept winning from Betul.

In 1998, Khandelwal defeated Ashok Sable. Then, in 1999, he defeated Ghufran Azam. In 2004, he defeated Rajendra Jaiswal. In 2008, a bypoll was held when Khandelwal passed away and his son, Hemant, won from Betul. He had defeated Congress’ Sukhdeo Panse.

In 2009, BJP fielded Jyoti Dhurve who defeated Congress’ Ojha Ram by over 1 lakh votes. Then, in 2014, Dhurve’s victory margin was an astounding 3.28 lakh. She had defeated Ajay Shah. Congress hopes that the trend of tribal vote shifting from BJP, would help it. But this alone can’t ensure victory, as BJP is strong in Betul now and has a strong cadre.

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The author is a Bhopal-based senior journalist.

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