By Utpal Borpujari in Bhopal
If there is one candidate who is assured of her entry into the 15th Lok Sabha, it is BJP leader Sushma Swaraj.
And she has only Congress, more specifically its candidate Rajkumar Patel, to thank for.
Patel infamously got his nomination papers rejected as he did not file the ‘Form A’ in original while filing his papers at the last hour even though he had received all the necessary documentation a week in advance from the AICC headquarters. The consequence is that anywhere one goes in this constituency, home to the world-famous Sanchi stupas and in the past has elected Atal Bihari Vajpayee (in 1991), there was virtually no sign of electioneering. With the polling set to take place on April 23, ideally campaigning should have been at its peak now, but as one moves from part to part of this constituency that surrounds Bhopal constituency on almost three sides, there is virtually no sign that it is the battleground for one of the senior political leaders of the country.
Take for example Budhni, the Assembly constituency which returned incumbent Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan in the late-2008 polls. Here, barring a few posters and flags of BJP here and there, there is no poll talk.Seething CongressCongress leaders are, meanwhile, still at a loss for words if asked about the rejection of Patel’s papers. A district party leader, wishing to remain anonymous, is scathing is his comment, “He has been a past MLA, and knows the requirements of nomination process. It is a mystery to us why he filed a faulty set of papers and that too at the last moment, when he had everything in his hands a week in advance.” Now, angry Congress workers are waiting for the party high command to take its action against Patel for his “misdemeanour”, some of them even alluding to a “deal” with the BJP by him to clear the path for Swaraj, who is contesting from a LS seat in Madhya Pradesh for the first time. Patel, after his papers were rejected, had announced he would move the courts to get justice.
As local shopkeeper Laxman Prasad puts it, “What election? Sushma-ji is already through. Only the formality is to be completed.”
But Swaraj herself is playing it down. “Actually, now the situation has more challenging, since our workers and voters might get complacent because my only serious opponent is no more in contention. We are now concentrating on fully activating our workers so that they can ensure voters to come out of their houses and vote, and not remain in their homes complacent.” In the 2004 elections, the constituency had witnessed a low 50.01 per cent polling, with Shivraj Singh Chauhan winning with 65.19 per cent of the votes polled as against his nearest rival Narbada Prasad Sharma who got just 25.48 per cent.
Patel has now got his brother Devkumar Patel contest as an independent, but he is hardly visible in the constituency. So, if you see a relaxed, smiling Swaraj these days, the credit purely goes to Patel and his party.