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Congress, BJP vie for BSP vote bank in Ater

BHOPAL: In Ater assembly bypolls, both the ruling BJP and the Congress are eyeing the 19,972 votes that went to BSP in the 2013 assembly elections.

The seat got vacated after the demise of former leader of opposition Satyadev Katare in October last year. It is now going for bypolls on April 9. There are 21 candidates in the poll fray, but the fight is between BJP state vice-president Arvind Bhadoria and Katare’s son Hemant. Here caste factor rules more than political parties, ideology or even developmental issues. The constituency has a strong 50,000 Thakur votes and equal number of Brahmin votes. While Congress has fielded a Brahmin, the BJP has a Thakur candidate in Bhadoria. The assembly segment is in Bhind district, adjoining Uttar Pradesh. Hence with political influence from across the state border, BSP candidate Mahendra Singh Bhadoria polled nearly 20,000 votes in the last assembly elections while Congress’ Katare received 45,592 votes and BJP’s Arvind Singh Bhadoria secured 33669 votes.

It was clear that BSP’s Thakur candidate cut away the BJP’s Thakur votes, paving the way for Katare’s victory by a margin of 11,426 votes. But, the caste equations have changed by the simple fact that BSP has not fielded a candidate for next month’s bypolls. The big question now is whether BJP will be able to grab the BSP’s vote bank for Bhadoria.

Meanwhile, the Congress is banking heavily on the sympathy factor having fielded Hemant Katare. The party in opposition is also leaving no stone unturned to claim the BSP’s 2013 votes. Leader of Opposition Ajay Singh is a Thakur and the Congress is pushing him to the front foot so that along with the Brahmin votes, sizable Thakur votes can swing in favour of Hemant Katare. Ajay Singh is making frequent trips to Ater to campaign for his party’s Brahmin candidate.

This is also the area of influence of Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia who will hit the campaign trail from April 3 to 7. In 1990, Munnasingh Bhadoria of the BJP got elected by a margin of 20,153 votes while in 1993 assembly polls Congress’ Satyadev Katare was elected by a margin of 3,156 votes. BJP’s Munnasingh returned in 1998 by a margin of 25534 votes and Satyadev Katare grabbed the seat in 2003 by a margin of 10,784 votes. In 2008, the seat was captured by BJP’s Arvind Bhadoria who won by 1,851 votes and in 2013 he was defeated by Satyadev Katare by a margin of 11,426 votes.

The constituency has so far alternatively elected the BJP and the Congress, never repeating a party since 1990. Victory margin has ranged from less than 2,000 votes to more than 25,000 votes. For 2017 bypolls, the only additional deciding factor other than caste is sympathy for Hemant, son of Satyadev Katare who represented the seat thrice in the state assembly.

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