Jabalpur, which is located in the Mahakoshal region, is termed as ‘Sanskardhani’ or the cultural capital of Madhya Pradesh. The Jabalpur Lok Sabha constituency, like the two other major urban constituencies of the state—Bhopal and Indore, has been electing BJP MPs for a long time. Congress had last won here in 1991.
Since then, BJP has won it six times straight. While BJP has fielded its state BJP president Rakesh Singh, a sitting MP from Jabalpur, Congress has again chosen senior lawyer Vivek Tankha to take on Singh who has won the seat thrice in a row.
Interestingly, Tankha had contested the last election too from Jabalpur, and had lost by a margin of over 2.1 lakh votes. Subsequently, Congress sent Tankha to Rajya Sabha. Now the party has again entrusted him with the task to win Jabalpur.
Though BJP is strong in the constituency, Congress has made big gains in the Assembly elections here. While the party won four out of the eight Assembly constituencies here, (it won three out of four constituencies of Jabalpur city).
BJP candidate Rakesh Singh is the state chief of the party. He is a seasoned man and is aiming for a fourth straight victory. However, lack of development is one of the biggest issues in Jabalpur. Tankha’s campaign is focusing on the failure of the elected representatives on this account.
No doubt, there is a feeling of weariness among electorate and BJP is facing the heat due to anti-incumbency. But will Congress be able to exploit the sentiment? No doubt, Tankha has a clean image. His election campaign focuses on failure of the BJP candidate.
There was a grouse among section of locals that when people went to the member of parliament, they were often told, ‘this is not my subject or not related to me”. In posters, Congress candidate is shown saying that, ‘it is indeed my subject’– the job of the parliamentarian to ensure development and bring industries. But the fact remains that BJP is strong in Jabalpur and it is not an easy task for Congress to snatch the seat.
Once Jabalpur was the biggest city in Central India. However, over the last few decades, it has seen a decline. While Indore and Bhopal grew, people of Jabalpur, the city that has High Court and is known for its Ordnance factory apart from the famous Marble rocks, feel that it has been neglected.
Jabalpur seat was consistently won by Congress’ veteran leader Seth Govind Das, who kept winning it from 1957 (when the seat came into existence) till 1971. In 1974, when Seth Govind Das died, elections were necessitated and, Sharad Yadav, (supported by Jayaprakash Narayan) won from here in a by-poll, defeating Congress’ Ravi Mohan Das.
Later, Yadav again got elected from here in 1977 during the Janata wave, when he defeated JN Awasthi of Congress. In 1980, Munder Sharma of Congress defeated Rajmohan Gandhi, here. In 1982, BJP’s Baburao Paranjpe first won the seat for BJP. He defeated Ratna Devi.
Later, in 1984, Ajay Narayan Mushran of Congress won the seat, defeating Paranjpe by a huge margin. But in 1989, Paranjpe defeated Mushran by over 1 lakh votes. Two years later, Congress reclaimed the seat when Shrawan Patel defeated Paranjpe.
However, since then BJP has never lost the Lok Sabaha election in Jabalpur. In 1996, Paranjpe defeated Patel by a margin of around 70,000 votes. In 1998, Paranjpe defeated Congress candidate Dr Alok Chansoria by 84,000 votes. In the next election in 1999, BJP fielded Jaishree Banerjee who defeated Congress’ Chandra Mohan by 1.1 lakh votes.
Since 2004, Rakesh Singh has been winning the seat. In the first election, he defeated Vishwanath Dubey of Congress by 99,000 votes. In 2009, Congress fielded senior advocate Rameshwar Neekhra but he too lost by 1.05 lakh votes. Again in 2014, Singh won by a margin of 2.10 lakh votes. Now, both the parties have decided to field the same candidates and it’s just a matter of time before the ‘Sanskardhani’ elects its MP.