The preparations for bypolls to Khandwa parliamentary constituency and three assembly seats, scheduled for October 30, have began taking shape in Madhya Pradesh with the Congress announcing candidates for all four seats before the BJP.

The bypolls, touted as semifinals before the 2023 assembly polls, have generated much interest.

On Tuesday, the Congress announced former MLA Rajnarayan Singh Purni as its Khandwa Lok Sabha candidate. The three-time legislator is considered close to Rajya Sabha member Digvijaya Singh.

Kalpana Verma, a zilla panchayat member from Satna who had lost 2018 assembly polls, has been given a ticket for Raigaon seat (reserved for scheduled caste candidates), while Mahesh Patel, Alirajpur Congress district president and son of former MLA late Vesta Patel, has been offered ticket for Jobat seat (reserved for scheduled tribe candidates).

The party had already announced Nitendra Singh, son of former minister Brajendra Singh Rathore, as the candidate for the Prithvipur seat in Niwari district. The seat fell vacant following the death of Rathore.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said on Tuesday that the BJP will announce its candidates soon as the process of selection has been completed. He said the BJP does not take much time for candidate selection as it does not look for dynasties or families but focuses on party workers. He added that there was no groupism in the saffron party, not does the party has people suggesting different names as candidates.

However, the CM’s statement came just a day after BJP workers, mainly supporters of former MLA Madho Singh Dawar, put up resignations in Jobat to protest the induction of former Congress MLA Sulochana Rawat and her son Vishal Rawat into the party. They protested the prospects of either of them getting the ticket from Jobat.

The Khandwa Lok Sabha ticket is most likely to go to Harshvardhan Singh Chauhan – son of prominent BJP leader Nand Kumar Singh Chouhan, whose death vacated the seat earlier this year. However, former minister Archana Chitnis and former MP Krishnamurari Moghe are also notable contenders for this seat.

Similarly, the Raigaon ticket is likely to go to Pushpraj Bagri, the son of deceased MLA Jugal Kishore Bagri. However, Pushpraj had lost the 2013 election on BJP ticket to Usha Choudhary, who was then with Bahujan Samaj Party, but later switched over to the Congress.

The Prithvipur candidate selection might be toughest for the BJP as the party has performed very poorly in the constituency in 2018 polls, when its candidate Abhay Singh Yadav was relegated to fourth position behind Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party candidates. SP candidate Shishupal Yadav, who came second in 2018, has now joined BJP and is a strong contender for the ticket. However, his outsider tag has caused rift among the local BJP workers. Besides, Abhay Singh’s father Akhand Patap Singh, a former minister, has filed nomination as independent candidate on the seat, opening up another front.

Arun Yadav retracted candidature

The Congress candidate selection was also not bereft of drama as former president of MP Congress Committee and former union minister Arun Yadav, considered strongest contender for the Khandwa Lok Sabha seat, retracted his claim just two days ago with a letter to Sonia Gandhi. Though Yadav cited personal and family reasons for his decision, the BJP sought to play it up as fallout of internal politics in Congress and an insult to a prominent OBC leader. Yadav is not on good terms with ex-chief minister Kamal Nath. While Digvijaya Singh was publicly supporting his candidature, sources said the Rajya Sabha member was also not rooting for him that much.

Independent MLA Surendra Singh Shera had also been openly seeking the Congress ticket for Khandwa for his wife Jayashree Singh.

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