The Dhar constituency, which is reserved for candidates belonging to the scheduled tribes (ST) is located in the Western part of Madhya Pradesh. It was one of those constituencies in the state that saw Jan Sangh gaining acceptability quite early. This region that has a strong tribal populace was once the capital of Sultans of Malwa.
It is in Dhar town, the city of Raja Bhoj, that the Bhojshala-Kamal Maula mosque complex is located. Right-wing groups have tried to stoke communal passions over it in the past.
BJP’s Savitri Thakur had won the election in 2014. In the election that saw BJP sweep Madhya Pradesh, she had won by over 1 lakh votes. She had defeated Umang Singhar.
However, in the recent Assembly elections, BJP has lost votes in most of the Assembly segments that fall in this parliamentary constituency. In fact, Congress has secured 2 lakh votes more than the BJP.
Apart from losing votes, the bigger problem is that the voters seem to be unhappy with their representative. Of the eight Assembly segments, Congress has won six and BJP 2.
The situation was so bad for BJP that the workers had sensed defeat in the run up to Assembly elections. The results suggested how voters had shown their anger in the election.
In Kukshi assembly segment, Surendra Singh Honey Baghel defeated BJP’s Virendra Singh by around 62,000 votes. Dr Hira Alawa won by around 40,000 votes in Manawar. He defeated Ranjana Baghel who was minister in Shivraj government.
The Congress’ leads were huge in other Assembly constituencies that fall in Dhar LS seat, too. In Badnawar, the Congress candidate won by a big margin of over 42,000 votes.
In Sardarpur, Congress candidate won by over 36,000 votes. In Gandhwani, Umang Singhar defeated BJP candidate SS Medha by 38,000 votes. In Dharampuri, Congress’ Panchilal Medha won by over 14,000 votes.
BJP won just in two segments—Dhar and Mhow, that too with margins of 5,000 and 7,000. All efforts to keep tribals in the BJP fold failed in the December elections.
Lack of development, the issue of taking away land in the name of industries and failure to bring projects, has affected the image of the sitting MP.
Hence, BJP is on a sticky wicket here. As far as Congress is concerned, they have most won the seat in the last two decades when Gajendra Singh Rajukhedi was given the ticket.
The Dhar Lok Sabha seat has an interesting history. Bharat Singh Chauhan of Jana Singh won the election in 1967 and 1971. He had defeated Jamuna Devi and Fatehbhanu Singh respectively in these elections. Later, he again contested as BLD candidate and won in 1977 (defeating Congress’ Mangi Lal).
In 1980, Congress’ Fateh Bhanu Singh won from here, defeating Bharat Singh who contested on Janata Party ticket. In the 1984 election, Pratap Singh Baghel of Congress won, defeating Dhirendra Singh.
The popular leader Suraj Bhanu Singh Solanki won from here, twice on Congress ticket. In 1989, he defeated BJP’s Dhirendra Singh and in 1991 defeated BJP’s Umrao Singh.
In 1996, Chhatar Singh Darbar was the first BJP candidate to get elected from Dhar. He defeated Suraj Bhaju Solanki. But in 1998, Congress’ Gajendra Singh Rajukhedi won the election, defeating Hemalata Darbar.
In 1999, Rajukhedi won from the second time. He defeated Harsh Chauhan of BJP. But in 2004, Chhatar Singh Darbar managed to win against Congress’ Umang Singhar.
However, in 2009, Congress candidate Rajukhedi defeated him once again. The margin was just 2,700 votes. In 2014, Congress didn’t give ticket to Rajukhedi. Instead, it fielded Umang Singhar who lost yet again. On this occasion, BJP’s Savitri Thakur was the winning candidate.
But in the last couple of years, voters seem to have nursed grievances against the MP. There were promises about railway line and water pipeline but not much was achieved.
This went against the party in the Vidhan Sabha. Dhar is one of the seats, BJP leadership is focusing on, and they are searching for a strong candidate. The first time MP may be replaced and a new candidate is likely to be fielded in order to tackle the anti-incumbency.