Election after election, Congress faces the same dilemma in Indore—finding a candidate who can wrest the seat for the party.
The Indore Lok Sabha constituency is a BJP stronghold for decades. The veteran Sumitra Mahajan, who is now Lok Sabha speaker, has been winning the seat since the late 80s.
In fact, ‘Tai’, as she is generally referred to, has created a record as she has won the constituency eight times, straight, and in process made it a BJP bastion.
Indore, the biggest city and most populous district in the state, that was once the seat of the Holkar kingdom, presents this problem for the Congress, as it has become a ‘BJP seat’, like some other major urban centres in the region.
In 1989, Sumitra Mahajan had defeated former chief minister and ex-Union minister PC Sethi. Since then, she has retained the seat.
There have been speculations in some sections that she may not contest the election. So there is a possibility of another ‘son rise’.
But within BJP, there are leaders like Gopal Krishna Nema who are seen as contenders. And, there are suggestions that even Kailash Vijayvargiya may contest, in case Sumitra Mahajan doesn’t fight the upcoming election.
There are others too who are contenders. But the fact remains that Mahajan may contest again for the ninth term. Congress has kept changing its candidates for many years yet all of them have lost in the last three decades.
And hence, the real trouble is for Congress. Will they bring a new face and a formidable candidate? On a seat where BJP has won by huge margins repeatedly, it was Satyanarayan Patel, who had given the BJP a scare.
In 2009, Patel had polled 3.77 lakh votes compared to Mahajan’s 3.88 lakh, and in the end lost by just over 10,000 votes. This was the closest election on this seat in decades.
But in 2014, Sumitra Maharaj made a record, winning by a margin of over 4.66 lakh votes. Patel lost. However, he remains a contender, as it was he who had come close to victory in the 2009 elections.
It was rumoured that Kailash Vijayvargiya supporters were not enthusiastic for the party in the particular election. Those who are aware of the local politics, speak at length about the Kailash camp and Sumitra Mahajan camp, and their differences. It is visible in ticket distribution at every level.
Congress is also known for infighting, here. Even when Homi Daji had won, INTUC was held responsible for the loss of Congress candidate. This continues till date.
In 1989, Sumitra Mahajan had first won the seat for BJP, defeating PC Sethi by over 1.12 lakh votes. In 1991, she retained the seat by defeating Lalit Jain by over 80,000 votes.
Five years later, Congress’ Madhukar Verma lost to her by a margin of over 1 lakh in 1996. Then, Congress fielded Pankaj Sanghvi who lost by 50,000 votes in 1998, though the margin was brought down on this occasion. In 1999, Congress fielded Mahesh Joshi who lost by 1.32 lakh votes.
When Congress changed its candidate again and fielded Rameshwar Patel in 2004, Sumitra Mahajan increased victory margin to 1.94 lakh.
But in 2009, Satyanarayan Patel gave her the toughest fight. Despite 2014 loss, will he again be fielded or will a bigwig like Digvijaya contest from Bhopal, as some in Congress claim!
For the record, renowned Communist leader Homi Daji had won from Indore as an independent, in 1962. Congress’ PC Sethi defeated him in 1967. In all, Sethi represented Indore in Lok Sabha, four times.
In the past, Congress was strong in Indore. From 1957 when Kanhaiyalal Khadiwala defeated Jan Sangh’s Kishori Lal to 1984, Congress mostly won the seat.
Homi Daji won in 1962 and Bhartiya Lok Dal’s Kalyan Singh during the Janata wave in 1977. But this is distant past now.
Both the parties have to decide for 2018. Congress has done well in the Assembly polls, even in Indore. Hence, BJP can’t be complacent.
However, if one goes by the history of the contests in Lok Sabha polls, the reality is that winning Indore is a big challenge for Congress.