All eyes on Khandwa as Lok Sabha by-election draws big names

All eyes on Khandwa as Lok Sabha by-election draws big names

All eyes on Khandwa as Lok Sabha by-election draws big names

The ruling BJP and opposition Congress in Madhya Pradesh are putting in enormous efforts into winning the Khandwa Lok Sabha seat.

Khandwa: When by-elections for the Lok Sabha seat of Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh were announced, many high-profile names, including senior BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya and Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan, were being proposed as candidates, garnering the attention of the entire state.

In addition, Harshvardhan Singh Chauhan, son of late MP Nandkumar Singh Chauhan; former state cabinet minister, Archana Chitnis; senior BJP leader and Indore’s mayor, Krishna Murari Moghe; and Rajpalsinh Tomar were at the forefront of the race.

Former Union Minister and State Congress President Arun Yadav was also a top pick, but as he withdrew his candidature at the last minute, both Congress and BJP fielded local candidates. BJP's Gyaneshwar Patil and Congress's Rajnarayan Singh are among the 16 candidates contesting for the seat.

Polling will be held in Khandwa on October 30, and the results will be announced on November 2.

There had been frenzied campaigning by all parties with Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan planning to hold 60 meetings in the constituency and Kamal Nath entrusting the responsibility of this by-election to a dozen of his former ministers.

Constituency at a glance

Khandwa, which is famous for Omkareshwar, the fourth Jyotirlinga of the country, holds an important place in the country, religiously, culturally and historically. Khandwa Lok Sabha constituency comprises the districts of Khandwa, Burhanpur, Khargone and Dewas, together making up seven legislative assembly constituencies.

Singaji Thermal Power Project, along with Indirasagar and Omkareshwar Hydroelectric Projects, are functioning in Khandwa district, while NTPC is generating power in Khargone district, making Khandwa constituency a power hub in MP, generating 5,360 MW of power in total. Meanwhile, a floating solar energy plant is being built on the Omkareshwar dam reservoir, which after its completion completed by 2022-23 is expected to generate 600 MW of additional electricity.

More than 19 lakh voters are eligible to cast their ballot in this election and SC/ST, OBC and minority voters make up a huge chunk of the population (79%). The issues important to these elections have been unemployment particularly the lack of jobs of local youth in the power projects, the closure of Khandwa's pulse mill ginning factories and over 12,000 power looms and irrigation. 

A fight for credibility

The last by-election to the Khandwa Lok Sabha seat was held 42 years ago after the death of the sitting MP in a road accident. PM Indira Gandhi had held roadshows in 58 villages of Khandwa Lok Sabha but ultimately the Congress candidate lost to former BJP national president Kushabhau Thakre. This time, it was the death of Kandhwa's MP Nandkumar Singh Chauhan due to COVID-19 in March 2021 that has necessitated the by-polls. Chauhan was also the BJP state president and had won elections from Khandwa Lok Sabha six out of seven times between 1996 and 2019.

In 2009, Arun Yadav, son of former Deputy Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh Subhash Yadav, defeated Chauhan for the first time.

Congressman and former chief minister Kamal Nath gave fiery speeches on the campaign trail while Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan attended dozens of meeting ahead of the Lok Sabha by-election in Khandwa (Pictures sourced by Mohammad Asif Siddiqui)

Apart from the Khandwa Lok Sabha, by-elections are being held in three assembly seats in Madhya Pradesh after the deaths of the BJP MLA from Raigaon and Congress MLAs from Prithvipur and Jobat. These elections are crucial for Congress. After Jyotiraditya Scindia's rebellion, 22 of his MLAs joined the BJP.  Post that, two MLAs from Khandwa Lok Sabha — from the Mandhata and Nepanagar assembly constituencies — joined the BJP, and both the seats were won by the BJP in the by-elections held here. Congress was left with 96 MLAs which fell further after the deaths of the two MLAs. 

Issues of the day

During the campaign, the BJP relied on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's appeal and the promise of development while Congress focused on inflation and unemployment. Congress workers had also gone door-to-door with the promise of loan waivers for farmers and better prices for crops. The Congress candidate hails from Mandhata where is near many big power projects but the locals here have not been able to get jobs in these projects. So the Congress has been raising this issue as well.

A large number of people migrate from Khandwa for work, but this issue has not been raised during the elections. To provide employment, the panchayats of their villages used to give them work for a few days, but now this has also stopped.

One-third of the electorate in Khandwa Lok Sabha constituency resides in rural areas. Despite this, the focus of the parties is on the cities. Khandwa Lok Sabha has three tribal-dominated assemblies and these are the same areas that were gravely affected by malnutrition in 1998 and 62 tribal children died in a single season in Khalwa. Promises have been made by the Panchayats to eliminate malnutrition and provide employment, but not much has changed. The same promises are being made now as well.

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