Dissent in BJP ranks in Madhya Pradesh over denial of tickets for assembly elections
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Madhya Pradesh is battling dissent in its ranks on a scale that appears much bigger than its rival, the Congress. Among its prominent rebels is former minister and four time BJP member of Parliament, Ramkrishna Kusmaria, (75), who is contesting as an independent from two seats- Pathria and Damoh -- in the drought-prone Bundelkhand region.
“I gave 40 years of my life to the party and in return they did not had courtesy to tell me that a ticket will be denied to me,” he said. claiming to be hurt.
Deeraj Pateriya (49), who is the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha’s state president and is contesting as an independent from Jabalpur North, said, “There is an attempt to finish me politically. And I want to show my popularity by contesting”.
Kusmaria and Pateriya have joined other senior leaders, such as former state minister Sartaj Singh, who is contesting on a Congress ticket from Hoshangabad, to have publically expressed their anger at the party’s ticket distribution.
“Over 67 important party leaders who are contesting from other political parties or as independents have been expelled so far,” said a senior BJP leader at the party headquarters in Bhopal. The leaders expelled include sitting MLA from Bhind Narendra Singh Kushwah and former mayor of Gwalior Sameeksha Gupta. There are 230 assembly seats in Madhya Pradesh, which goes to the polls on November 28.
The BJP leader quoted above said the party has a list of at least 100 leaders working against the party but no action is being taken due to electoral compulsions. “Any action now will send wrong message to our cadre and will provide the Congress an issue to hit at us,” the leader said.
The leader accepted that it was for the first time in the state that so many BJP workers had been expelled. The number was about 20 in the run-up to 2013 assembly elections, he said. “This is the biggest rebellion in the BJP I have ever witnessed,” said Kusum Mehadele, a minister in the Shivraj Singh Chouhan cabinet who was also denied ticket.
The BJP has dropped four ministers and at least 45 sitting MLAs . But officially, the party rejected reports of large-scale rebellion. State BJP spokesperson Rajneesh Agrawal said, “I don’t think there is any alarming situation for the party. Every political party faces such a situation at the election time and it would not have any impact on the party’s prospects.”
In the Congress, the scale of the rebellion appears to be smaller. “We have expelled less then 20 leaders and workers,” a state Congress leader said on condition of anonymity.He said there were not many rebel candidates unlike Rajasthan where the party had faced violent protest by workers for denial of tickets.
The only big leader to face action was former Rajya Sabha member Satyavrat Chaturvedi, whose son Nitin Chaturvedi is contesting on a Samajwadi party ticket. He was expelled.
“The BJP is battling rebellion because the party has not only betrayed the people but also a section of its workers and leaders”, said state Congress spokesperson Bhupendra Gupta.
Political observer Bhagwandev Israni confirmed the scale of the rebellion was larger in the BJP. “This is a reflection of the political scenario. The BJP is facing a bigger problem than the Congress, unlike the previous three elections, as BJP leaders and workers realise which direction the wind is blowing.”