The Shahdol Lok Sabha constituency, which is reserved for Scheduled Caste (ST) candidate is spread over Anuppur, Umaria, Shahdol and Katni districts of Eastern Madhya Pradesh.
For BJP leadership, Shahdol is an important seat and the growing disenchantment of the tribal voter towards the party, has been a cause of concern. Congress is expecting that it will be able to snatch the seat from BJP.
Right now, Gyan Singh (BJP) represents this seat in Lok Sabha. Earlier, the sitting MP Dalpat Singh Paraste of BJP, had died and as a result, by-poll was held in 2016.
Gyan Singh won that election. He was a cabinet minister in Madhya Pradesh, and was not keen to contest but the party leadership fielded him.
Though he managed to win, Gyan Singh, a veteran leader, was not seen as an active member of parliament (MP) in the constituency, in this term. Even party workers said that he had limited himself to Umaria.
In 2014, Paraste had won by a huge margin of over 2.40 lakh votes. He had defeated Congress’Rajesh Nandini Singh. Such was the victory that BJP candidate secured over 54% votes while Congress’ candidate got just around 29% votes.
However, barely two years later when the Lok Sabha poll was held on account of Paraste’s death, the victory margin came down drastically.
Gyan Singh won against Himadri Singh just by around 60,000 votes in a tough election. Singh got 4.81 lakh votes. Himadri Singh secured 4.21 lakh votes.
The sign of disenchantment among voters was visible. However, Singh did nothing to change it. When the Assembly poll was held recently, Congress performance improved even more.
In the eight Assembly seats that fall under the Shahdol LS constituency, Congress got more votes than BJP. In all, Congress got over 5.12 lakh votes while BJP has got 4.90 lakh votes.
Incidentally, the party of tribals, Gondwana Gantantra Party (GGP) has also secured around 70,000 votes here.
No wonder, party leadership is worried about this seat. With other tribal dominated seats that have seen a similar swing in Congress’ favour, BJP has realized that it needs to act fast to retain the seat in the upcoming Lok Sabha election.
Earlier, BJP had six out of eight Assembly seats in 2013. Now both parties have four each, with Congress having a better vote share.
Further, Gyan Singh’s silence, his inactivity in the constituency as well as in the Parliament, has been a point of discussion in Shahdol.
Sometime ago, posters were put up, suggesting that the MP was missing. Shahdol lacks good railway connectivity and the people feel there has been no major developmental work.
In 1962, the socialist Buddhu Singh had defeated Jhalkan Kumari of Congress in Shahdol. In 1967, Congress’ Girija Kumari had defeated Jana Sangh candidate Sampat Singh.
However, an independent, Dhansah Pradhan was elected in 1971. The 1977 election saw Dalpat Singh Paraste win the seat on Bhartiya Lok Dal’s ticket.
Later, in 1980 and 1984, Congress’ Dalbir Singh won from here. In 1989, Dalpat Singh Paraste won again on JD ticket. In 1991, Dalbir Singh won on Congress ticket, defeating Hemvant Porte of BJP.
In 1996, BJP fielded Gyan Singh who defeated Dalbeer Singh. Gyan Singh again won in 1998. In 1999 and 2004, Dalpat Singh Paraste was fielded and both the times, he won the election.
In 2009, Rajesh Nandini Singh won the seat for Congress after a long time, defeating Narendra Marawi by 13,000 votes. But in 2014, Paraste again snatched it, winning as BJP candidate.
The five-term MP died in 2016 and the bypoll sent Gyan Singh to Parliament once again. Himadri Singh, the daughter of Rajesh Nandini Singh, lost by a reduced margin.
After Assembly polls in December 2018, BJP has Shahdol on the list of seats that need special attention. The search is on for a candidate.
Congress may again field Himadri Singh, whose father Dalbir Singh was a union minister in Rajiv Gandhi government and mother (Rajesh Nandini Singh) was Shahdol MP in the past.
Though Gondwana Gantantra Party (GGP) has a base in Shahdol, the fight will be between Congress and BJP. If it is a close contest, then GGP’s votes may prove crucial.