Bhopal: The Congress Sunday released its first list of 144 candidates for the upcoming Madhya Pradesh assembly elections. Notable among the candidates is Vikram Mastal, an actor who played Hanuman in Anand Sagar’s 2008 television show, Ramayan. He will be pitted against four-time Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan in his home constituency of Budhni.
Among the candidates are 70 former MLAs and 74 others whose names came up prominently in internal surveys, party sources said to ThePrint. So far, 19 women have been given tickets in the first list.
The list also includes former chief minister Kamal Nath, who will be contesting from Chhindwara. Kamal Nath is a nine-time MP from the corresponding parliamentary constituency of the same name. In the last state assembly election, in 2018, the Congress had won all the seven assembly segments in this Lok Sabha seat — Junnardeo, Amarwara, Chourai, Chhindwara, Sausar, Parasia, and Pandhurna.
It was Kamal Nath — a Hanuman devotee who built a temple with a 101-foot-statue of the deity in Simariya village, Chhindwara district — who inducted Mastal into the Congress on 4 July this year.
Subsequently, Mastal — a native of Budhni — was also made the coordinator of Narmada Seva Sena, an group of party workers working to conserve the river in the state.
Soon after the list was announced, the Congress also released a 38-second video of Mastal as Hanuman, standing before Lord Ram, seeking further instructions after registering a victory in the Karnataka assembly elections earlier this year, where the party won by a majority. The video then goes on to show Lord Ram instructing Hanuman to ensure ‘bhakt Kamal Nath’ is victorious in the coming Madhya Pradesh assembly elections. The Congress shared this video on its X handle as well.
कर्नाटक चुनाव के बाद हनुमान जी का यह वीडियो खूब वायरल हुआ था। अब यही हनुमान जी यानी विक्रम मस्ताल जी बुधनी से मुख्यमंत्री शिवराज सिंह चौहान के सामने कांग्रेस प्रत्याशी हैं।
हनुमान जी की जय pic.twitter.com/9Yp8KIsE5L
— Piyush Babele||पीयूष बबेले (@BabelePiyush) October 15, 2023
Once the list was announced, Kamal Nath took to X to congratulate all the candidates and called upon the party “workers and the respected people of Madhya Pradesh to ensure success to the Congress candidates and establish a government of truth and justice in Madhya Pradesh”.
All 230 seats in the state will go to the polls on 17 November, while the votes will be counted on 3 December.
Who made it, who didn’t
The first list comprises 47 candidates from the general category, 39 from the Other Backward Classes, 22 from the Scheduled Castes, 30 from the Scheduled Tribes and six from minority communities.
Former chief minister Digvijaya Singh’s son Jaivardhan Singh, who was a minister in the previous Congress government, will be contesting from Raghogarh seat.
At least four former BJP leaders who have joined the Congress feature in the first list. Awadesh Nayak has been fielded from Datia against incumbent Home Minister Narottam Mishra, whereas Rao Yadvendra Yadav has been fielded from Mungaoli. Former BJP MP Bodh Singh Bhagat has been fielded from Katangi, while Neeraj Sharma has been given a ticket against sitting Transport Minister Govind Singh Rajput in Surkhi.
The list did not feature Virendra Raghuvanshi, a two-time BJP MLA who later joined the Congress. It was speculated that he might contest from Shivpuri, but he has not been given a ticket from any of the seats in the district.
So far, three sitting MLAs have not been given tickets to contest from their current seats, including former assembly speaker Narmada Prasad Prajapati.
The Congress has fielded Lakhan Singh Patel against Union minister Prahlad Singh Patel in Narsinghpur, while former finance minister Tarun Bhanot has been fielded from Jabalpur (West) against the BJP’s Rakesh Singh — the sitting MP from the Jabalpur parliamentary constituency, who will be contesting the assembly polls this time.
Sanjay Shukla, who shot to the limelight for being the richest mayoral candidate in Indore last year, will contest against BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya from Indore-1, while Siddharth Khuswah has been fielded from Satna against Ganesh Singh, the sitting BJP MP from Satna.
(Edited by Smriti Sinha)