Bypolls to two Lok Sabha constituencies --Ratlam in Madhya Pradesh and Warangal in Telangana-- to he held on Saturday are turning out to be a battle of prestige for the chief ministers.
MP chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan doesn’t want the Petlawad blasts, the Vyapam recruitment scam, and the BJP’s Bihar debacle to affect the result, according to political observers and party insiders.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has fielded Nirmala Bhuria -- daughter of Dilip Singh Bhuria whose death necessitated the bypoll-- against Kantilal Bhuria of the Congress.
CM Chouhan toured the constituency for about a week addressing public rallies and party meetings besides sending a team of ministers to campaign.
Political observers say Chouhan is desperate to prove that his image has not been dented by the Petlawad blasts which killed 80 people, and by the Vyapam recruitment scam.
What would bother him most is that Ratlam constituency, earlier known as Jhabua, has been won by non-Congress parties only thrice in the past -- 1971, 1977 and 2014.
The SC reserved Warangal seat fell vacant in June when sitting MP Kadiyam Srihari was inducted into the state cabinet by chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao.
Apart from the TDP all the other major parties -- Congress, BJP-TDP combine and YSR Congress-- have fielded candidates.
The ruling TRS is taking the poll seriously with at least two ministers saying the outcome will be a referendum on Rao’s one-and-half year rule.
Political obervers, however, say what would help the government is the prevailing Telangana sentiment rather than any developmental activity.
A win would help Rao hold at bay an opposition onslaught over a host of issues like farmer suicides.
Bypolls are also being held in four assembly seats in the northeast, where the Congress is looking to extend the gains it made in Bihar.
Two of these seats are in Manipur and one each in Meghalaya and Mizoram. The Congress had won only one of these four sets in the last state elections.
Except for Meghalaya, where it has 30 seats -- one short of the majority mark in the 60-member house -- the Congress has nothing to prove in Manipur and Mizoram.
The Congress has 33 seats in the 40-member Mizoram assembly and 42 in the 60-member Manipur assembly
A sweep is expected to boost the party’s morale ahead of the 2016 assembly elections in Assam, where it faces its toughest test in 15 years.
Unlike in Bihar, where regional allies helped turn its fortunes around, the Congress faces challenge from regional forces – Manipur Democratic People’s Front (MDPF) in Manipur, United Democratic Party (UDP) and Hill State People’s Democratic Party (HSPDP) in Meghalaya, and Mizo National Front (MNF) and Zoram Nationalist Party (ZNP) in Mizoram.
The BJP is contesting the the Thongju and Thangmeiband seats in Manipur, but is yet to become a formidable political force in the state.