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Madhya Pradesh tribal areas go to polls, but Indore steals show in fourth phase

The BJP and the Congress are locked in a two-round contest for the remaining eight seats in Madhya Pradesh, which will go to polls in the fourth phase of the Lok Sabha elections on May 13, with a unique proposal from the Indore constituency : The opposition party urged voters not to choose any of the above (NOTA) after its official candidate withdrew his nomination.

The eight seats are Dewas (SC), Ujjain (SC), Ratlam (ST), Khargone (ST), Dhar (ST), Indore, Mandsaur and Khandwa. The first three phases of voting have been completed in 21 out of the total 29 seats in the state. Currently, all eight seats in the Malwa-Nimal region are held by the BJP.

Congress has focused its campaign specifically on the Indore Lok Sabha (NOTA) segment as the party’s official candidate Akshay Kanti Bam withdrew his nomination.

Continuing his relentless bid to win 400 seats in the elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in Dhar that the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) needs to win to stop the Congress party from “restoring Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir” and push Afghanistan to The “Babri Lock” on the Yotya Rama Temple.

Apart from Modi holding rallies in Dhar and Khargone, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also held rallies in Ratlam and Khargone in the state to campaign. Both leaders in their speeches sought to win over tribal support as three seats are reserved for the community, which also has a sizeable population in other areas.

At the rally, Mr Gandhi also announced that if the Congress wins the polls, wages will be increased to Rs 400 per day under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).

Apart from the Ram temple and Article 370, Modi also targeted the Congress party, accusing it of wanting reservations on religious lines.

Indore in focus

Although the Congress does not have a candidate in the constituency, party workers have been conducting an extensive campaign asking people to vote for NOTA and “teach the BJP a lesson”.

The party, which has accused the BJP of “hijacking its candidates and murdering democracy”, has been organizing events across the constituency, including marches and door-to-door campaigning.

Meanwhile, the BJP has termed the Congress campaign as “negative politics” and focused on increasing vote percentage.

Bam unexpectedly withdrew his nomination on April 29, just days after a local court charged him and his father with attempted murder in a 17-year-old case. The court also issued non-bailable arrest warrants for them on Friday after rejecting their application seeking immunity from appearing in court.

According to election observers in Indore, this is also the first election in a long time that no leaders of the BJP and Congress are contesting here. The BJP has retained Shankar Lalwani, the sitting MP from Indore seat.

Tribal Hotspot

The Congress party received a lucrative mandate from the Malwa-Nimal region in the 2018 Assembly elections but lost ground in the region in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and the 2023 Assembly elections.

However, the party has been trying to reach out to the tribal communities in the region, mainly claiming that if the BJP returns to power, it will “abandon the constitution that gives them rights”.

Mr Gandhi also said at the Kagan rally: “If the Constitution is completed, all the rights you have will disappear. Your Jaar, Zamin’aur Jungle (water, land, and forests), reserves, and public sectors will disappear.

The closest contest is expected to be in Rutland, between former Union minister and five-time MP Kanjilal Bhuria and BJP candidate Anita Nagar, district council president. Anita Nagar Singh Chouhan, the wife of Minister of State Nagar Singh Chouhan. The BJP has refused to give votes to sitting MP Guman Singh Damor.

Mr Bhuria also won the seat in the 2015 polls after the death of then BJP MP Dileep Singh Bhuria. Ya previously served five terms as a member of Congress.

The seat, which has over 65 per cent tribal voters, is witnessing a tussle between two sub-groups of the community – Bhil and Bhilala. Mr. Bhuria hails from the Bhil community, which has about 10 lakh voters, while Ms. Chouhan hails from the Bhilala community, which has more than 2.5 lakh voters.

The BJP, however, is banking on various welfare schemes of the central and state governments, such as the Ladli Behna Yojana launched by former chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. The party is also hoping to gain support from other communities, including Dalits and Brahmins, who have significant numbers.

CM Mohan Yadav’s home constituency Ujjain is also going to polls in the fourth phase and the CM himself is leaving no stone unturned to ensure the party’s victory here. The BJP retained the Ujjain seat of incumbent MP Anil Firojiya.

The Dhar constituency is also expected to witness an interesting contest with the possibility of communal polarization between the Hindu and Muslim communities in the area following the Archaeological Survey of India’s survey of the Bhojsala Kamal Mullah complex dispute.

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