In this West Nimar constituency, which has a strong RSS presence, the BJP is striving to wrest from the Congress the lead it took in four segments in the December 2013 Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh.
The Congress had won half of the Assembly seats including Badwani, Rajpur, Kasrawad and Bhikangaon on the strength of its promise to waive farm loans up to Rs.51,000, ease electricity bills on limited usage and raise the minimum support price of essential crops. But the Congress lost the State elections and now the tribals are being ferociously wooed by the BJP, the Congress and the AAP.
For the BJP candidate, Subhash Patel, this is the first Parliamentary election. He had sought ticket for Rajpur Assembly seat which went to his uncle. The uncle lost but 36-year-old Mr. Patel, a former ABVP leader, won the candidature for this Scheduled Tribe reserved seat. The constituency spread over Badwani and Khargone districts has 16.5 lakh voters in eight Assembly seats.
Although the BJP won four out of the eight Assembly seats including Sendhwa, Pansemal, Khargone and Maheshwar, it is going all out to win the confidence of the tribals who hold sway on six Assembly seats. In doing so it has revoked the name of Jana Sangh leader late Ramchandra Bade who had won the Khargone seat in 1962 and under his influence, the party had a dream victory of all Assembly seats then.
“The foundation of the BJP in West Nimar was laid by Ramchandra Bade who worked tirelessly for tribal forest rights,’’ BJP leader L.K. Advani said recently at a rally in Pati.
Mr. Bade’s daughter, Pramodini Bade Phatak, former vice-president of the Mahila BJP, told The Hindu in Sendhwa that the Bharatiya Janata Sangh had only two members in the Lok Sabha, one of them her father. Such was his influence in the region. “Apart from the party, my father was dedicated at grassroots level for the welfare of Adivasis in Nimar. As a member of the Debt Conciliation Board, he was instrumental in getting the debts of tribals waived from money lenders. He was a lone figure in this battle.’’
Recalled Haji Ismail, a cloth merchant, “Bade saheb used to go from one Adivasi village to another holding a makeshift mike made from tin sheet to raise awareness.’’ According to him, a large section of Muslims in Sendhwa town are willing to go along with the BJP in this election.
Mohammad Yakub of Darul Uloom in Sendhwa, was however evasive when The Hindu contacted him. He said it was yet to be decided which way the Mohammadan community was inclined. indicating that the community is divided between the Congress and the others. Congress candidate Ramesh Patel had a rape charge against him. The matter was settled out of court and he married the victim. This point is not missed by the BJP candidate who has weaved his campaign around his “swajchsaaf chaavi [clean image]” and “Modi leher.”
For AAP candidate Kailash Awasiya, a tribal farmer, who has been fighting alongside Medha Patkar for the rights of people displaced by Narmada dams, the issues are corruption, inflation and need for change. The AAP has the silent support of tribals in the villages on the Narmada bank in segments like Badwani, Pansemal, Rajpur, Kasrawad and Maheshwar but will it be enough to beat the “Modi leher” is not clear yet. Only the BJP supporters are vocal and loud displaying a trend in favour of the party. The rest are sitting on the fence.