Political rise of terror-accused Pragya Singh Thakur and electoral defeats of Congress leaders Digvijaya Singh and Jyotiraditya Scindia in the Lok Sabha polls hogged headlines in Madhya Pradesh in 2019. The Congress suffered its biggest defeat in Lok Sabha polls, managing to win just one out of 29 seats in the state. In the year, the state also regained its distinction as “Tiger State”, home to the highest number of big cats in the country. Thakur, whose nomination as BJP candidate from Bhopal Lok Sabha seat came as a shock to many, trounced her rival and former chief minister Digvijaya Singh by over 3 lakh votes.
But she remained in news from the start for the wrong reasons. During the campaign, she said former Anti-Terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare died during the Mumbai terror attack as she had “cursed” him for ‘torturing’ her after her arrest in the Malegaon blast case. She was forced to apologise over the statement, but followed it up with another shocker when she termed Nathuram Godse, assassin of Mahatma Gandhi, as a “patriot”.
Despite it all, Thakur won the election. Months later, she embarrassed her party by praising Godse in Parliament, and again tendered an apology. The Congress, which came back to power in Madhya Pradesh in 2018 after ending the BJP’s 15-year-long rule, suffered a jolt in the Lok Sabha elections when it won only the Chhindwara seat where chief minister Kamal Nath’s son Nakul was the party’s candidate.
Stalwarts like Scindia and Digvijaya, among others, were defeated in the worst result for the Congress since 2000. The BJP won 28 out of 29 seats in the state. Scindia lost to his one-time protege K P Yadav who had joined BJP from the former royal family’s traditional Guna seat.
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But the Congress had something to cheer later in the year, as it wrested back Jhabua Assembly seat in a bypoll where former union minister Kantilal Bhuria defeated BJP’s Bhanu Bhuria. BJP veterans Babulal Gaur and Kailash Joshi, both former chief ministers, died in 2019.
Sustained tiger conservation efforts paid rich dividends for the state, with population of the big cat registering a rise of 218 in four years. After a decade, Madhya Pradesh bagged the “Tiger State” status as a survey showed that it is home to 526 big cats, the highest in the country.
Conservation activist Ajay Dubey said that during 2014-2019, the state also lost 143 tigers due to various reasons including poaching. A Special Tiger Protection Force should be formed, he suggested. In other good news, Akshay Kumar-starrer ‘Padman’ inspired 37-year-old Bhupendra Khoiwal, resident of Khor in Neemuch district, to set up a sanitary pad manufacturing unit where he has employed 15 local women.
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Source: Financial Express