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BJP struggles to control rift among top leaders in poll-bound MP

Bhopal : Internal differences among the top leaders of the Madhya Pradesh BJP unit continue to intensify even though the central leadership took full command of the poll preparations and has appointed two Union Ministers — Bhupendra Yadav and Ashwini Vaishnaw — as election in-charge beside appointing the seniormost state-based leader and Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar as the convenor.

The factionalism in the ruling party is presumably yet to die down, especially in the context of the Vindhya region, where the party had won 24 out of 30 assembly seats in 2018. However,  back-to-back incidents against the tribals and ST/SC communities, especially Sidhi’s pee-gate issue last month in this upper caste dominated area, have  escalated the resentment of people belonging to both the upper and lower castes ahead of the assembly elections due around four months later.

Already struggling to counter anti-incumbency against its nearly two decades (except a brief period of the Congress government) of rule, the ghar-wapsi episode of former MLA couple from Rewa district Abhay Mishra and his wife Neelam Mishra recently has not just surprised the party workers, but the development has also annoyed two-time former minister and BJP leader of the Vindhya region – Rajendra Shukla.

Abhay Mishra, who runs a liquor business in Rewa and has imposed his own rules there, had won the assembly election on a BJP ticket in 2008 from Semaria constituency. His wife Neelam Mishra was also elected MLA from the same seat in 2013. However, the power tussle between Rajendra Shukla and Abhay Mishra came to the fore in 2018 when the latter’s wife and the then sitting BJP MLA Neelam Mishra had broken down in the House and had staged a dharna in the well, alleging that her family was facing threats to life from her own party leader.

After that incident, the Mishra couple shifted to the Congress. Abhay Mishra had contested the assembly election against Rajendra Shukla in 2018 and lost by a margin of more than 18,000 votes. Mishra was positioning himself as the contender for the ticket either from Rewa or Semaria, however, aware of his image among the people after back to back survey reports, Congress state president Kamal Nath, who is in search of winnable candidates, denied him a ticket.

Subsequently, Mishra, who has already tried his best to get a ticket either for his wife or for himself from any political party such as the BSP or the AAP, and has a good bonding with state Home Minister Narottam Mishra, finally made his ghar-wapsi last week. “What annoys Rajendra Shukla is that Mishra’s ghar-wapsi happened with the consent of chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. Further, Mishra made a statement that the state BJP leadership has tasked him to win the Rewa and Samaria assembly seats,” a Rewa-based senior BJP leader on condition of anonymity.

The sitting BJP MLA from Semaria, K. P. Tripathi who is close to Rajendra Shukla, had won the election in 2018 with a margin of 7000 votes against the Congress’ Triyugi Narayan Shukla. Mishra’s ghar-wapsi has also upset sitting BJP MLA Tripathi as both belong to Semaria and do not let go any chance to belittle each other.

“People of Vindhya region were already annoyed with the party leadership because despite winning 24 out of 30 assembly seats under the leadership of Rajendra Shukla in the Vindhya region, he wasn’t given a place in CM Chouhan’s cabinet. It is really very shocking for all of us that despite knowing the image of Mishra, why did the state leadership not find a better person instead of him. If this issue is not resolved, the BJP would pay the price in at least four assembly seats in Rewa district,” said a source who has been closely monitoring Vindhya’s politics for the last one decade and is associated with the RSS.

Four-time MLA and two-time minister Rajendra Shukla, who was once the favorite of CM Chouhan, has positioned himself as a prominent Brahmin political face in the Vindhya region after former assembly speaker Sriniwas Tiwari, who died in January 2018. Sources aware of the development that Rajendra Shukla and K. P. Tripathi reached Bhopal on Monday and they are likely to meet CM Chouhan and the Union Ministers appointed as the MP BJP’s election in-charge team to raise their voice.   

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