Left to Right: Jyotiraditya Scindia, Nakul Nath, Pragya Singh Thakur, Digvijaya Singh
Madhya Pradesh went to polls in four phases on April 29, May 6, May 12 and May 19. While the votes will be counted on May 23, News Nation exit poll has predicted a total dominance for the BJP, with the saffron party expected to win 23 of the 29 seats and the remaining six for the Congress.
The exit polls show the BJP recovering from the damage it suffered in the last year’s Assembly polls when the Congress took away the state from its hands after 15 years.
Here are some key contests that the state witnessed during the high-voltage Lok Sabha polls and the prominent faces contesting the elections:
Bhopal: Divijaya Singh (Congress) versus Pragya Singh Thakur (BJP)
Bhopal will be one of the most closely watched electoral battles on May 23, where the BJP has fielded Malegaon blast accused Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur against senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh.
The Bhopal seat has been a BJP stronghold since 1989. From 1989 to 1999, the seat was held by Sushil Chandra Verma, from 1999 to 2004 by Uma Bharti, from 2004 to 2014 by Kailash Joshi and then by Alok Sanjar.
Thakur’s recent controversial remarks, referring to Mahatma’s Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse as “true patriot” had given enough fodder to the Congress to attack the Modi government. While Thakur later apologised for her remarks, PM Modi said that she will never forgive the former for disrespecting Gandhi.
Chhindwara: Nakul Nath (Congress) versus Natthan Shah (BJP)
Chhindwara has been a Kamal Nath bastion than the Congress. Kamal Nath represented the seat nine times in 1980, 1984, 1989, 1991, 1998, 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014. His wife Alka Nath won the seat in 1996 but later left it for Nath to contest. In a 1997 bypoll, BJP's Sunder Lal Patwa defeated Nath by over 37,000 votes. Nath's son Nakul Nath is in the fray this time from the constituency.
Guna: Jyotiraditya Scindia (Congress) versus K P Yadav (BJP)
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Guna Lok Sabha constituency was won by Congress’ Jyotiraditya Scindia, who defeated his closest competitor Jaibhansingh Pawaiya of the BJP by a margin of 1,20,792 votes.
This time around, Scindia is once again seeking re-election from the constituency where he is facing challenge from BJP candidate K P Yadav.
Guna has forever been a bastion of the Scindia family and its latest incumbent, Jyotiraditya will be looking to continue the tradition by winning the seat.
Damoh: Prahlad Patel (BJP) versus Pratap Singh Lodhi (Congress)
The Damoh seat is currently held by Prahlad Patel who defeated Congress candidate Choudhary Mahendra Pratap Singh by receiving 56.30 per cent of the votes cast in the constituency. This time, the grand old party has fielded Pratap Singh Lodhi to take on Patel. The BJP has been winning the seat since 1989 whereas the Congress last won it in 1984.
Jabalpur: Vivek Tankha (Congress) versus Rakesh Singh (BJP)
The BJP has been winning the Jabalpur seat since 1996. In 2014, party's Rakesh Singh won the seat for the third consecutive time with an impressive margin of over 2 lakh votes when he defeated Congress candidate Vivek Tankha. Both Singh and Tankha are again in the fray. The Congress last time won the seat in 1991. Baburao Paranjpe represented the seat four times in 1980, 1989, 1996 and 1998.
Morena: Narendra Singh Tomar (BJP) Vs Ram Niwas Rawat (Congress) Vs Kartar Singh Bhadana (BSP)
Morena became a standalone seat after the delimitation exercise of 1967 and is reserved for candidates from the Scheduled Castes.
Since 1996, Morena, the birthplace of former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, has constantly voted for the BJP. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, BJP’s Anoop Mishra defeated Congress candidate Brindawan Singh Sikarwar.
This time, the BJP has fielded Narendra Singh Tomar against Congress’s Ram Niwas Rawat. In 2009, Tomar and Rawat had fought for the seat with the former emerging victorious with more than one lakh votes.
Kartar Singh Bhadana of the Bahujan Samaj Party is also in the fray making it a triangular contest.
Ratlam: Kantilal Bhuria (Congress) versus G S Damor (BJP)
Ratlam was one of the eight constituencies which went to polls in the seventh and final phase of Lok Sabha polls on May 19. The seat is witnessing a one-on-one contest between Guman Singh Damor of BJP and Kantilal Bhuria of the Congress.
In 2014, BJP’s Dileep Singh Bhuria had won the seat by a huge margin of over 1 lakh votes. He had defeated Kantilal Bhuria.
Khandwa: Nand Kumar Singh Chouhan (BJP) Vs Arun Yadav (Congress)
The Khandwa Lok Sabha seat will witness a contest between Nand Kumar Singh Chouhan, who is the sitting BJP MP, and Congress's Arun Chandra Yadav.
In 2014, Subhash Patel of BJP beat Ramesh Patel of INC by 2.57 lakh votes.
In 2009, Arun Subhaschandra Yadav of INC beat Nandkumar Singh Chauhan of BJP by 49,000 votes.
Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh is the party's nominee from Bhopal Lok Sabha seat – a BJP stronghold since the last three decades. Singh, who had served as the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh between 1993-2003, is currently a member of the Rajya Sabha.
The contest between Congress' Digvijay Singh and Hindutva activist and Malegaon blast case accused Pragya Thakur in Bhopal will be one of the most keenly watched fights in the election.
Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur
Pragya Thakur, facing trial in Malegaon blast case and currently out on bail, is BJP’s candidate from Bhopal, which has been its bastion for many elections.
An NIA court had dropped charges against her under the stringent MCOCA but she and other co-accused are still facing other charges in the Malegaon case.
Thakur’s recent remarks referring to Mahatma Gandhi assassin Nathuram Godse a "patriot", inviting condemnation from the opposition as well as her own party.
Jyotiraditya Scindia is seeking re-election from Guna and is facing challenge from K P Yadav of the BJP. The seat has been held by him since 2002 and he will aim at retaining it for the fifth consecutive time.
Scindia won by a margin of over 1.20 lakh votes in 2014 and by over 2.49 lakhs in the 2009 general elections. Out of the eight assembly seats under this parliamentary constituency, four each were won by the BJP and the Congress in 2018.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath and his son Nakul Nath are in election fray from their family turf of Chhindwara as Congress candidates, but their destinations are different.
While Kamal Nath is contesting bypoll from the Chhindwara assembly seat to continue in his office in Bhopal, his son is looking to enter Parliament in Delhi via his home district which is part of the Mahakaushal region.
The Congress has fielded Nakul Nath (44) from the Chhindwara Lok Sabha constituency, represented by his father for a record nine times since 1980, marking his debut in electoral politics.
Narendra Singh Tomar
Union minister and Gwalior MP Narendra Singh Tomar was shifted to Morena from Gwalior where had won in 2014 as the party apprehended of dissent in Gwalior.
According to sources, Tomar’s popularity in Gwalior took a hit after the BJP’s massive defeat in the region in state assembly polls.