The Congress and BJP’s efforts to convince some of their rebels to bow out of the contest at the last minute were a success, but, many have remained in the poll fray as the deadline for withdrawal of nomination has ended.
The deadline ended on Thursday and not all rebels from both parties backed out.
Many of the rebels have stayed put as independent candidates after they were denied tickets from their respective political parties — the Congress and the ruling BJP. This has made the contest more interesting. Importantly, in some of these seats, the rebels are from close families.
The Congress leadership managed to convince around one-and-a-half dozen of its workers to withdraw their nomination and give a sense of relief for the party’s candidates, however, the problem could not be resolved in nearly a dozen of Assembly seats.
For instance, rebel Congress candidate Antar Singh Darbar did not withdraw his nomination from the Dr Ambedkar Nagar-Mhow Assembly constituency and announced instead that he was leaving the party.
Darbar, a two-time Congress MLA, filed papers as an independent on October 29 after the party denied him ticket. The Congress instead fielded Ramkishore Shukla. Shukla had left Congress and joined the BJP but he was cajoled back to the party fold by state Congress chief Kamal Nath last month.
Senior leaders from BJP and Congress — including Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, State Congress President Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh have held a number of meetings with their respective upset leaders to pacify them and bring them back into the parties.
However, the two parties continue to face the rebel challenge in nearly 30 seats each. At least five BJP and six Congress’ influential leaders are still in the poll fray as independents or on smaller parties’ tickets and looking to hamper the chances of the BJP and Congress candidates.
BJP rebel Harshwardhan Singh Chouhan, son of former MP and State BJP chief Nandkumar Singh Chouhan, is contesting from Burhanpur seat of Burhanpur district. Harshvardhan, upset over the party ticket going to former state Minister Archana Chitnis, also resigned from the party’s primary membership on Thursday.
BJP rebel and former Tikamgarh MLA K.K. Shrivastav is still in the contest from the seat and is expected to dent the prospects of party candidate and sitting MLA Rakesh Giri.
In Bhopal Uttar (north) seat, two Congress rebels — Amir Aqeel, who is the brother of sitting MLA Arif Aqeel, and former Bhopal district Youth Congress president Nasir Islam — are contesting as independents and look to hurt the party’s chances in its bastion, which it has held since 1993.
Arif Aqeel, who has been the MLA since 1998, is not contesting this time and the Congress has fielded his son Atif Aqeel from the constituency. Amir Aqeel, who had been active in politics with his brother, and Nasir Islam, said to be close to Digvijaya Singh, quit the party to contest the polls. The BJP has fielded former city Mayor Alok Sharma from the seat.
The Congress rebels and independent candidates — former MLA Shekhar Choudhary, who is contesting from Narsinghpur district’s Gotegaon seat, and former MLA Om Prakash Raghuvanshi, who is in the fray from Narmadapuram’s Seoni-Malwa seat — also did not take back their names on the last day.