Ex-Union Minister From Madhya Pradesh, Denied BJP Ticket, Joins Congress

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Madhya Pradesh Polls: Sartaj Singh was denied a ticket from the Madhya Pradesh BJP in its third list

Bhopal:

The Congress on Thursday declared its fifth list of 16 candidates for the Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections, which included former Union minister Sartaj Singh, who moved to the party from the BJP earlier on Thursday.

The opposition party announced Mr Singh as its candidate from Hoshangabad minutes after he quit the BJP, which denied him a ticket in its third list.

Singh, 71, a sitting Member of Legislative Assembly or MLA from Seoni-Malwa, will take on Madhya Pradesh Assembly Speaker and BJP candidate Sitasharan Sharma in Hoshangabad.

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Among the new faces fielded by the Congress in the fifth list is Vinay Saxena who will contest from Jabalpur North.

The Congress has so far announced 225 candidates for the November 28 elections to the 230-member Madhya Pradesh Assembly.

The party is yet to announce candidates for Budhni (Sehore district), Manpur (Dhar), Indore-2, Indore-5 and Jatara (Tikamgarh).

It is hunting for a heavy-weight candidate against Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the BJP's face for the polls, in his bastion Budhni, so that he is confined to his constituency, Congress sources said.

The ruling BJP is yet to announce six candidates.

Sartaj Singh is the third senior BJP leader in the state to join the Congress after Sanjay Sharma and Padma Shukla. Mr Sharma is the sitting BJP MLA from Tendukhenda in Seoni district.

The Congress has nominated the former union minister from Seoni-Malwa constituency for the upcoming polls.

Ms Shukla, who resigned as the state Social Welfare Board chief and quit the BJP, has bagged Congress nomination from Vijjayraghavgarh constituency in Katni district.

Besides, the Congress has given ticket to Sanjay Singh Masani, brother-in-law of chief minister Chouhan, from Waraseoni in Balaghat district.

Waraseoni is currently represented by BJP's Yogendra Nirmal.

Mr Masani's name figured in the Congress' fourth list, released Wednesday night.

The Congress had announced its first list on November 3.

In the current Assembly, the party has 57 MLAs.

The Congress has been out of power in Madhya Pradesh since 2003. The incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government is seeking a fourth straight term.

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