Bhopal: In Vindhya, a region bordering Uttar Pradesh, the poll script will be different this time. The buoyant Congress hopes the right selection of candidates will help the party sail to victory and form the government in Madhya Pradesh.
Unlike 2018, when the BJP had won 24 out of all 30 seats, the 2023 assembly election is set to throw up surprises and cause upsets, including on some seats where victory is considered a matter of prestige for the BJP. According to observers, the Congress is poised to do a lot better, particularly on seats in rural areas.
Though the fight is between the two traditional rivals- the BJP and the Congress- for most of the seats, the AAP, encouraged by its victory in mayoral polls on Singrauli, aspires to make entry in Vidhan Sabha through Vindhya region.
In mayoral elections in Singrauli, an area famous for rich coal reserves and thermal energy power production, AAP candidate Rani Agrawal won in 2022, setting alarm bells ringing in the border district.
After Rani Agrawal threw her hat in the assembly poll arena from Singrauli, Arvind Kejriwal and Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Singh Mann visited the area twice, making the party's intent loud and clear. The AAP is positioning to spread its reach and influence in central India in coming years.
Historically speaking, electorate from the area also gave chance to parties like the Bhaujan Samaj Party (BSP) and CPI(M), which largely remained marginal players in the state's political landscape.
The SP and the AAP, the constituents of INDIA, which are going solo in this assembly poll, and the BSP may turn out to be spoiler on one or two seats in the region.
The region rich in natural resources still has to do a lot of catching-up in terms of employment generation. Young voters feel the problem of unemployment has not received the importance the issue deserves. As a result, the region, despite having a huge potential, could not grow fast, compelling youngsters to look for employment avenues in other parts of the country.
Ashok Dwivedi, a union leader, says, "Things are changing. You may not agree with the pace. Mauganj will see a big change in terms of industry. Already, a big solar plant is there in the region."
In dozen-odd seats, familiar faces like Ajay Singh, son of former chief minister Arjun Singh and minister Rajendra Shukla are contesting from the region.
Reposing faith in Ajay Singh, the Congress has repeated him from Churhat seat in Sidhi district. Singh, who was the leader of Opposition in the Assembly after the death of Satyadev Katare, emerged victorious from Churhat six times in the past, is pitted against the BJP's Shardendu Tiwari.
After the death of Arjun Singh and former speaker Shrinivas Tiwari, Ajay Singh is the most prominent face of the Congress from the region and looks set to play an important role in the state if the Congress is voted to power. Says Ajay Singh, "Congress is in a strong position and the party tally is going to be impressive."
From Vindhya, the BJP fielded Ganesh Singh, the four-time MP from Satna and Riti Pathak from Sidhi seat. The two are among the seven MPs the saffron party has pitted against the Congress, showing the growing realisation in the BJP that all is not well for the party this time.
In Satna, the Congress put its weight behind MLA Siddarth Kushwaha Daboo by supporting his candidature. The BJP rebel Ratnakar Chaturvedi, who is contesting on BSP ticket, is posing a challenge to Ganesh Singh and may well eat into the BJP votes.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the area to campaign for its candidates in Sidhi and Satna, indicating that the going is tough for the party which has been in power for 18 years.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also campaigned for the party candidates, promising the party is committed to change the situation on the ground and improve the living condition by providing employment and taking a slew of other welfare measures right from the word go, like it did in Karnataka and other states.
Teothar, Devtalab and Rampur Baghelan are among the seats which have made the electoral battle quite interesting and injected an element of excitement. Observers feel the choice of candidates and switching loyalties have added an element of zing.
From Devtalab seat, Girish Gautam, the BJP candidate and Vidhan Sabha speaker, is testing his luck. The Congress candidate, Padmesh Gautam, nephew of Girish Gautam, promises to turn it in one of the most keenly watched contests. If observers are to be believed, the presence of SP candidate Seema Jaiveer Singh can muddy the political water.
From Rampur Baghelan seat, state's former chief minister Govind Narayan Singh's grandson Vikram Singh is BJP candidate. The Congress is betting on Ramshankar Pyasi, a Brahmin from the seat they are in strong numbers.
In Teothar, Congress candidate Ramashankar Singh, who is Kamal Nath's choice, has an edge over Siddarth Raj Tiwari, the grandson of Shrinivas Tiwari, former Speaker and a famous leader of the grand old party from the region. Locals say one should not be surprised if the BJP rebel Devendra Singh turns out to be a party pooper.