Bhopal: The by-elections to Shahdol Lok Sabha and Nepanagar Assembly seats in Madhya Pradesh on November 19 have assumed more significance as the first major ground test for the ruling BJP after demonetisation of high-value notes.
It is crucial for the BJP to retain both the seats, for which the campaign ended this evening, as defeat of its candidates is certain to be dubbed by the opposition as the "voters' response" to the demonetisation move by the BJP led Central government.
Shahdol LS bypoll is caused by the death of Dalpat Singh Paraste who won the seat in 2014, Nepanagar Assembly seat fell vacant due to the demise of Rajendra Shyamlal Dadu in an accident, both from the BJP.
While Congress has fielded Himadri Singh, daughter of former union minister Dalbir Singh and ex-MP Rajesh Nandini Singh in Shahdol, the BJP has put up tribal leader and state minister Gyan Singh.
The BJP leaders exuded confidence of retaining both the ST seats with comfortable margins, claiming that the currency scrapping will not affect the party's prospects.
The Congress, however, said the move will hit the ruling party "badly" in the polls.
"People are highly annoyed with the decision and I am sure that they will vote against BJP on the issue," MP Congress chief Arun Yadav told PTI.
"People are facing grave problems with this dictatorial order. Both common man and farmers were forced to stand in long queues. Farmers are not having money to purchase fertilisers and seeds," he claimed.
Rejecting the Congress's contention, BJP leader Hitesh Bajpai said demonetisation is not an issue in the tribal-dominated area.
"They are more concerned with issues of getting land lease rights, their staple food is rice and jowar and they are happy with it," he said.
"The party had won the Shahdol seat with a margin of over two lakh votes and I am sure that we will retain it with a difference of more than 1.5 lakh ballots," he said.