The BJP on Monday fielded Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar, two junior ministers in the Narendra Modi government and some Lok Sabha MPs to contest the upcoming Assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh, betraying nerves amid a strong push from challenger Congress.
“This (fielding ministers and MPs) is in a way acknowledgment that the party was on a weak wicket in MP,” one BJP MP from the state said.
The names of the ministers and MPs were included in the second list of candidates issued by the BJP on Monday evening, which left many in the party surprised.
The BJP has started announcing names of candidates even before the Election Commission has announced the schedule for the polls, likely to be held in November. This is yet another first for the party, and is believed to be aimed at settling factional bickerings over candidates well before the votes are cast.
Tomar, a senior cabinet minister who holds the agriculture and farmers’ welfare portfolio, was fielded from Dimani Assembly segment in Morena district. Tomar is Lok Sabha MP from Morena constituency.
Two of his junior colleagues in the Modi government, Prahlad Singh Patel and Faggan Singh Kulhaste, were also fielded from different Assembly segments.
Atleast 3 Lok Sabha MPs, Ganesh Singh, Riti Pathak and Uday Pratap Singh, also figured on the list.
Getting Union ministers and MPs to contest the Assembly polls was also seen as a signal to four-term state chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan from the central leadership that he may not be made chief minister again if the party retains power. Shivraj was a rival of Modi before 2014 and is among the few Advani-era leaders active in the party now.
Tomar and some of the other ministers and MPs fielded to contest have been seen as chief ministerial aspirants for some time now. National general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, a former Bengal party minder, was also fielded from Indore and was also seen as a strong aspirant for the top post.
The Congress led by Kamal Nath has been running an aggressive campaign in the state, capitalising on the simmering anti-incumbency against the BJP’s nearly 20-year rule in the state.
Modi on Monday addressed a party workers rally in Bhopal and told them not to allow the “dynastic and corrupt” Congress to gain power in the state.