The first and foremost issue that comes up as soon as electoral politics in Seoni district is discussed is the deep-rooted game of one-upmanship between senior Cong leaders -- Vimla Verma, Forest and Transport Minister Harvansh Singh and Tribal Welfare Minister Urmila Singh.india Updated: Nov 04, 2003 16:24 IST
The first and foremost issue that comes up as soon as electoral politics in Seoni district is discussed is the deep-rooted game of one-upmanship between three senior Congress leaders of the region. Veteran Vimla Verma, Forest and Transport Minister Harvansh Singh and Tribal Welfare Minister Urmila Singh are said never to look eye to eye and in the process do a lot of damage to the Congress prospects in a district, which, keeping with the trend of the Mahakaushal region, has been more or less a Congress fortress since decades.
Political observers are quick to point out that it is this factionalism in the top leadership of the Congress in the district that has made it lose two important constituencies of the five in the district. The BJP now holds the headquarter Seoni and the Pawar-dominated Barghat seats, while the Congress is managing to hold on to Lakhnadaun, Ghansaur and Kewlari. Even the recent rise of the Gondwana Ganatantra Party (GGP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is attributed more to the failure of the Congress leaders to keep its house in order.
It might be this fact that is forcing the Congress to show a united front this time, though the opposition parties are sure that the fractures remain as deep as ever. And thus, though the party cadre of BJP or its leadership is not very strong in the district, the BJP is not only sure of retaining the two seats it holds, but is also sure of increasing its tally. “We have improved upon our situation quite a bit. Due to the total non-performance of Congress and the infighting between the leadership, people are now turning more and more towards the BJP,‘’ sitting MLA of Seoni, Naresh Diwakar says. He is sure that the rise of both the GGP and the BSP would affect the Congress prospects quite adversely and work to BJP’s advantage.
On the other hand, the Congress talks about wresting the two seats back from the BJP and making a clean sweep of the district. “Given the right candidates, we are sure to take the seats out from BJP,’’ Aslam Khan, an active Youth Congress leader, who was vying for a ticket from Seoni, says. Giving example of Seoni he said that last year the Congress managed to win back the Seoni Municipal Council after a gap of 25 years and this shows a positive trend for Congress.
Harvansh Singh’s domination of the party cadre is clear. “He has the capability to get elected any candidate, if he takes it to his heart,’’ a senior political observer of the district says. A big chunk of party members also swear by the ‘thakur’. Urmila Singh has her own influence over the tribal belts and is expected to be a major player in the electoral proceedings of the district.
As for the common people, there seems to be a natural resentment with the ruling party owing to issues of roads, electricity and overall developmental aspects. There are several like Murari Kacchhi of Dangamaan village in Lakhnadaun constituency who say, “yeh sarkaar badalna bahut zaruri hai, inhoney kucch nahi kiya.” However, still, the political trends say that the Congress has an upper hand in the district and if the top leaders for once decide to go at it together, the party can manage to get a big chunk of electoral cake here.
Sitting MLA: Diwakar (BJP)
Seoni, being the headquarters constituency of the district has always remained a matter of honour. A Congress stronghold until 1990, the seat was wrested away by Mahesh Prasad who held it for two consecutive terms. During last elections, Naresh Diwakar managed to defeat Vimla Verma’s nephew Ashutosh Verma from here. In its bid to get the seat back, the Congress was planning to field the veteran Vimla Verma from here this time, but after the ageing Verma probably expressed unwillingness to contest any further polls, the ticket has been given to former district unit chief of Congress Rajkumar alias Pappu Khurana, known to be close to Kamal Nath. Though the BSP, GGP and even the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) might field candidates from the seat, the fight is expected to be more or less straight between Khurana and Naresh Diwakar, who is sure to retain his candidature. Diwakar is sure to find Khurana an easier candidate as compared to the veteran Vimla Verma, who could have given him some real tough time.
Sitting MLA: Dhal Singh Bisen (BJP)
A constituency with majority Pawar voters, MLA Bisen, who has held the seat from three consecutive terms seems to be sitting pretty, here. BJP has naturally retained him as the candidate, while the Congress, after scanning over at least three names in a bid to find a worthy opponent to Bisen, has settled upon Bhoyaram Choudhary, who is back in the Congress after defecting during the 1998 polls and causing its defeat. The other contenders for the Congress ticket here were district Congress chief Yadavrao Rahangdale and Nagar Panchayat president Anil Singh Thakur. Though Choudhary is a Marar by caste, he holds quite grip over the constituency. In this constituency too, Congress always held fort until 1990, when Bisen’s chariot started rolling here.
Sitting MLA: Harvansh Singh (Cong)
Kewalari constituency probably has the simplest of electoral pattern in the district. There is no doubt among people that the `Thakur’ Harvansh Singh would be the most certain winner from the seat. Once a stronghold of his political bete noire Vimla Verma, Harvansh Singh has been holding the seat for two consecutive terms and seems rock solid here. Neha Singh, whom the minister had defeated during the 1998 polls by a margin of more than 10,000 votes, is now in the Congress fold, forcing the BJP to find a suitable candidate from here. The choice seems to be narrowing down to Ramsaran Rai, who however might not be able to match the Harvansh Singh charisma. Choice being tough, the name of BJP candidate was not declared from here in the first list.
Sitting MLA: Urmila Singh (Cong)
Another sure shot Congress seat from the district, as the Tribal Welfare Minister is a lady to reckon with not only in her tribal-dominated constituency, but in the entire district. Singh has held the seat thrice, once from 1985 to 1990 and then for the last two terms. She has always managed to beat her rivals with big margins and her following does not seem to have eroded, despite the GGP’s phenomenal rise in the recent past. BJP has held this seat only once in 1990, when Dal Singh Thakur (Maraskolhe) defeated Urmila Singh. But Singh bounced back in 1993, trouncing Thakur quite comfortably. BJP is expected to have a tough run in the constituency and has given ticket to Dr Ashok Tekam, a relatively new face in BJP, but a social worker of repute. A section of BJP cadre, expecting that the ticket would go to former MLA Maraskolhe, is a relatively dejected lot and it might affect BJP’s already dim prospects in the constituency.
LAKHNADAUN (ST reserved)
Sitting MLA: Beni Parte (Congress)
A traditional Congress seat all along, late MLA Randhir Singh held quite a sway here. After his death, the seat went to Beni Parte of Congress and the Congress is in a somewhat of a fix in retaining him or giving the ticket to Geeta Singh, the widow of Randhir Singh. Though the GGP is flexing its muscles here and Shobharam Bhalavi of the party may give both the Congress and BJP the run for its money, but the Congress still maintains a lead here. BJP is said to be stealthily helping the GGP to rise here in a bid to divide the traditional tribal vote of Congress, but the move might strike back on the BJP too, several people feel. On its part, the BJP has decided upon Shashi Thakur, aunt of former MLA Randhir Singh, who recently left the Congress to join the BJP. By fielding her, the party, is seeking to further divide the Congress votes here.