The Maihar bypoll in Madhya Pradesh is set to become a triangular contest with the Bahujan Samaj Party fielding Ramlakhan Patel for the February 13 election. Patel, a two-term party MLA from neighbouring Rampur.
Baghelan, political observers feel could split the Kurmi votes that form a chunk of Congress vote bank.
The nomination, which will formally begin on Wednesday, has come as a shock to the Congress which was till now enjoying an upper hand in the contest. In fact, political watchers have not ruled out a BJP ploy in the act.
Only two weeks back, Manish Patel, who was BSP’s candidate from the constituency for the 2013 assembly election, had joined the Congress. Patel, one of the key leaders of the Kurmi community, had secured 40,561 votes to come third in the election.
There was only a difference of about 800 votes between Manish Patel and BJP candidate Ramesh Prasad, while Narayan Tripathi, the then Congress candidate, won the election by a margin of 6,975 votes.
In Baghelkhand that is deeply divided on caste lines, the Congress had almost decided on fielding Manish Patel for the bypoll banking on the Kurmi population in the area. Around 38,000 of the 2.20 lakh electorate here are Kurmis, to which Patel belongs.
The Congress, given its popularity among the Thakurs (10,000 in population), Muslims (10,000 aprox), and a section of SCs (20,000 approx), Kushwahas (15,000 approx), and STs (25,000 approx), was expected to win the seat comfortably. BJP candidate Narayan Tripathi is only banking on the support of the Brahmin community (40,000 voters).
However, now BSP’s Ramlakhan Patel, a popular political face in the region, is expected to split the Kurmi vote bank. Samajwadi Party’s Rajkumar Urmaliya, a Brahmin, may not have the same effect on the community’s vote bank.
“The BJP had gone into the polls with a negative feeling that the Congress had the upper hand. However, with the BSP contesting the bypolls, the Congress seems to have lost the advantage,” said political analyst Girija Shankar.
Sources in the Congress said while the party was certain to field Manish Patel till now, it may decide to field another candidate, possibly a Brahmin, to divide the BJP votes.
The seat fell vacant with the resignation of Congress MLA Narayan Tripathi and his defection to the BJP.
The key players
The Congress was planning to field Manish Patel for the bypoll banking on his popularity among the Kurmi population in the area. Around 38,000 of the 2.20 lakh electorate here are Kurmis, to which Patel belongs
The BJP is fielding Narayan Tripathi who enjoys the support of the Brahmin community (40,000 voters)
The Samajwadi Party is fielding Rajkumar Urmaliya, a Brahmin, while the BSP fielding Ramlakhan Patel for the February 13 election
Baghelkhand is deeply divided on caste lines and hence the political parties field candidates keeping caste equation on mind.
Who is Ramlakhan Patel
Ramlakhan Patel in a two-term Bahujan Samaj Party MLA from Rampur Baghelan. The party has fielded him for the Maihar bypoll. Patel is a key Kurmi community leader and is expected to cut into the Congress vote bank.