AS PANDHANA goes to polls on Monday, the BJP would be hoping that after winning the Vidisha and Bara Malhera by-polls they would be able to do a hat-trick by winning this one also.
And so far as efforts go, the BJP has left no stone unturned. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan led from the front and was supported by his ministers. At any point of time, at least four ministers were camping in Pandhana, so much so that it irked the opposition Congress and the Bharatiya Janshakti (BJ), who complained to the Election Commission about the ‘excessive’ presence of ministers and demanded that they be told to leave.
For the BJP, two issues - that of roads and power - continuously put them on the backfoot. There was nothing much that the BJP could do to improve the condition of roads in such a short period, and it glossed over the issue during the campaign or simply counter-attacked. But, they did improve the power situation, however short-term the effect might be. Minister of Energy Kailash Vijayvargiya ensured that even in the interior villages of Pandhana constituency there was three-phase power for at least five to six hours – which is sufficient time for the farmers to water their fields.
Moreover, party candidate Devendra Verma does have the sympathy factor working in his favour. His father, sitting MLA Kishorilal Verma, and mother were brutally murdered necessitating the elections. Devendra Verma also played the emotional pitch to the hilt. He asked for votes in the name of his father so that he could fulfill his unfinished tasks.
Both Congress and the BJ realised the potential of the sympathy factor, and tried to blunt the advantage. The Congress in its campaign attempted to project that late Kishorilal Verma had been killed in retaliation as he was exploiting a contractor by stopping his payment. Congress candidate Hiralal Silawat had lost the last elections to Kishorilal Verma and had polled only 37 per cent of the votes. He also had the disadvantage of not having any star campaigner, save former Chief Minister Digvijay Singh, to help him out.
His detractors also pointed out that he stayed in Indore, where he has a house, most of the time and therefore had no business fighting elections in Pandhana.
BJ candidate Vasudev Atut is an old RSS man and is a native of Pandhana, a fact that the campaign managers tried to exploit to the hilt. Though BJ is a new party, it did not appear to suffer from any lack of resources.
For example, a local bidi manufacturer had made a new air-conditioned vehicle available for Uma Bharti to traverse along the rutted roads of the villages. But, BJ was genuinely disadvantaged by a paucity of party cadres and it is possible that their men would not be able to man all the polling booths.
Moreover, there appeared to be some confusion among the villagers about the BJ symbol. They are fighting under the symbol of the ‘nagara’, while the symbol demanded by BJ at the national level is that of a rising sun, and many are familiar with that.
It is an election where BJP has everything to lose, the BJ nothing and for the Congress it is a fight with their backs to the wall. If it comes in third after BJP and BJ, it will be another blow to its already plummeting confidence.