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BSP queers the pitch for Congress in Madhya Pradesh bypolls

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Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which helped Congress get a wafer-thin majority in 2018, is queering the poll pitch for the Madhya Pradesh bypolls in 28 constituencies. .

The former Congress ally has decided to field candidates in all the 28 seats making it a triangular contest. Of the 28 seats going to polls on November 3, 16 are in the Gwalior-Chambal area where BSP has a considerable influence. Scheduled Castes comprise 16% of the state’s population. Of this, the maximum population is in the Gwalior-Chambal region, which is traditionally a BJP bastion. However, in 2018, this region helped Congress defeat BJP by winning 26 of the 34 seats. This region had witnessed mass mobilisation of Dalits in April 2018 when Congress and BSP had protested against the Supreme Court decision to dilute provisions of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act. Though BJP’s popular leader Narendra Singh Tomar hails from this region, the protests had made a dent in the party’s devoted vote bank.

Of the 16 seats, BSP’s presence in at least 10 is considerable with the party either winning them or coming second over the last three elections. Triangular contests in these 10 seats have been closed since 2013. These seats are Mehgaon, Karera, Jaora, Dimni, Sumawali, Morena, Ambah, Bhander, Ashok Nagar and Pohari. BSP had won Dimani and Ambah seats in 2013. In Pohari, BSP had edged out BJP in 2018 finishing a close second to Congress’ elected MLA. There are constituencies such as Mehgaon where the margins are as close as 1,200 and the presence of a BSP contestant could tilt the scales either way.

In 15 of the 16 seats in Gwalior-Chambal region, BSP has always been in contest. BSP has already declared candidates on 18 of the 28 seats. BSP state president Ramakant PIppal said, “We will contest all the 28 seats.” BSP has also decided to field Congress rebels further denting the principal opposition’s chances in the region. However, Congress has also employed a similar tactic fielding three BSP leaders – Phul Singh Baraiya (a known Jyotiraditya Scindia baiter), Satyaprakash Shekarwar and Pragilal Jatav.

The face-off in Madhya Pradesh is crucial for both the parties. At present, BJP has 107 MLAs in the 230-member assembly. Congress has 88 MLAs. Congress needs to win all the bypolls to wrest power from BJP. Comparatively, the ruling BJP has an easier task at hand as it would need to corner nine seats to retain power.

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