Khargone is a Lok Sabha seat in the tribal belt of Madhya Pradesh, that includes Khargone district which was earlier known as West Nimar, and Barwani districts.
This is a predominantly tribal region but the RSS has made strong inroads here in the last couple of decades. The BJP is strong in Nimar but the Congress has won the seat off and on, and the indications are that there is strong anti-incumbency against BJP.
In the recent Assembly elections, BJP got a shock in Khargone. Out of eight Assembly constituencies that fall under the Khargone Lok Sabha seat, BJP lost seven.
It won just the Barwani constituency where an independent candidate secured 49,000 votes and was ahead of Congress candidate who had also got 34,000 votes.
Congress won Khargone, Pansemal, Maheshwar, Kasrawad, Rajpur and Sendhwa seats. The eighth seat, Bhagwanpur elected a Congress rebel, Kedar Dawar, who had contested as an independent.
The results came as a surprise to BJP. Local workers feel that there was strong anger among farmers and disenchantment among tribals that couldn’t be sensed by the party earlier.
Congress had realised that the tribal vote was returning to its fold, over the last couple of years, starting with Ratlam-Jhabua Lok sabha bypoll.
This pattern was visible in some other Assembly bypolls and to an extent in civic and local bodies’ elections. The Assembly results reflected it.
With Khargone district having 40% tribal voters and Barwani that has over 70% tribals, it is clear that the Scheduled Tribes (STs) were unhappy with the BJP.
In 2014, BJP’s Subhash Patel had won the election from Khargone Lok Sabha seat, defeating Congress’ Ramesh Patel by a huge margin of over 2.5 lakh votes.
In 2009 too, BJP candidate had won the Lok Sabha election here. Makhan Singh Solanki had defeated Bala Bachchan by 34,000 votes. Bala Bachchan, a prominent tribal face of Congress, has just won Assembly polls from Rajpur here, and is now MP’s home minister.
In 2007, there was a bypoll when Arun Yadav had defeated BJP’s Krishna Murari Moghe by over 1.2 lakh votes. It was not a ST reserve seat t hen.
Arun Yadav’s father Subhash Yadav had also won election from here in the past twice and lost three times.
In the 1962 election, Ramchandra Bade of Jan Sangh had defeated Congress’ Kanhaiya Lal Khadiwala.
In the next election, Congress’ SCK Bajpai had defeated Bade. However, in 1971, Bade again won. Contesting as Jan Sangh candidate, he defeated Congress’ Amalok Chand Chhajed.
In 1977, Rameshwar Patidar who fought on Bhartiya Lok Dal’s symbol, had defeated Congress’ Subhash Yadav.
But in 1980, Subhash Yadav first got elected from here. He defeated Janata Party’s Rameshwar Patidar by 46,000 votes.
In 1984, Subhash Yadav once again defeated Patidar who was now contesting as a BJP candidate by 68,000 votes. But from 1989, BJP kept winning here, regularly.
Rameshwar Patidar again defeated Subhash Yadav in 1989 by 40,000 votes. Then, he again won the election in 1991, defeating Yadav by a comparatively smaller margin of 13,000 votes.
In 1996, Congress changed the candidate and fielded Bondar Singh Mandloi but he also lost to Patidar by 45,000 votes. In 1998, Patidar again defeated Bondar Singh by 21,000 votes.
After these four straight wins, Congress won the seat in 1999. This year, Tara Chand Patel defeated Balkrishna Patidar by 60,000 votes. In 2004, the seat went to BJP’s Krishna Morari Moghe.
Three years later, in a bypoll Congress’ Arun Yadav won from here. The bypoll was necessitated because of MP Krishna Murari Moghe’s disqualification on office of profit issue.
But in 2009 and 2014, BJP candidates were elected from here. Subhash Patel who is the sitting MP seems to have lost favour among the local residents.
Farmers complain about poor implementation of welfare schemes, particularly, the crop insurance scheme.
Migration of workers from this region to Gujarat and Maharashtra is a big issue and there has been no mechanism to stop it. Khargone remains a backward district.
Lot needs to be done in health and education sectors here. Right now, it’s advantage for Congress here. BJP wants to field a strong leader, especially a new face from here. While both the parties are pondering over the strategy and selection of candidates, one thing is clear—the tribal vote is the decisive factor in Khargone.