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Assembly elections 2018: Congress banking on anti-incumbent sentiment in Madhya Pradesh

File photo. Photograph:( Zee News Network )

Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, India Nov 28, 2018, 11.27 AM (IST) Written By: Lalit Shastri

The stakes are too high for both the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the main Opposition Congress in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh where polling for the general election to the state Assembly is being held today.

The BJP has remained in power continuously for fifteen years in Madhya Pradesh. After the Congress party’s defeat that brought to an end 10 years of Digvijaya Singh rule in 2003, the BJP has seen three chief ministers in the state – Uma Bharati (8 December 2003 – 22 August 2004), Babulal Gaur (23 August 2004 – 29 November 2005), and Shivraj Singh Chouhan (29 November 2005 till now).

In the Madhya Pradesh Assembly election, while the BJP is not leaving a single stone unturned to return to power for the fourth time in a row, the Congress also is using every tactic to turn the tables on the BJP. In this state, where electoral politics continues to remain highly polarised between the BJP and Congress, the present election is being treated by them not merely as the means to form a government in MP but also as the road to power at the Centre as victory in this election will come as a shot in the arm and pave the way for bigger success in the 2019 Lok Sabha election.

In Madhya Pradesh, there are more than 50 million voters, who have the right to elect their MLAs from among 2,907 candidates in the fray for 230 Assembly seats. In a large number of constituencies, there are anywhere between 10 to 20 candidates pitted against each other, but in 8 constituencies, the total number of candidates is more than 20. The constituencies with maximum contestants, shown in brackets, are Ater, Bhind district (33), Narela, Bhopal district (31), Satna (30), Khurai, Sagar district (27), Rampur Baghelan, Satna district,  Deotalab, Rewa district (both 23), Patharia, Damoh district (21) and Sausar, Chhindwara (20).

A large number of candidates in most constituencies notwithstanding, a close analysis of the candidates’ list shows that there is a straight contest between the Congress and the BJP for about 150 of the total 230 seats in the state Assembly. There are a few dozen seats, mostly in districts adjoining Uttar Pradesh, where the contest would be triangular due to the presence of candidates belonging to the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party. People had started looking forward to the third force playing a crucial role in the Madhya Pradesh election keeping in view the highly successful people’s Movement against the caste-based quota system led by “Samanya Pichda Alpsankhyak Kalyan Samaj Sanstha” (popularly called Sapaks Samaj), a citizens’ organisation. This Movement has got divided and fragmented after a group of retired government officers, who joined Sapaks Samaj only a few months ago cobbled up a disparate group and got a party registered by the name of Sapaks Party. It has entered the election arena blowing aloud the “third force” trumpet but on the ground, its presence is hardly visible.

In many constituencies, the BJP has been struck hard by the presence of rebel candidates, who chose to revolt after they were denied tickets. Along with anti-incumbency, BJP is finding itself against the wall on issues like corruption charges, lop-sided development – especially in far-flung rural areas, and poor implementation of welfare schemes, including the ambitious Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana (price difference payment scheme) launched recently by the Madhya Pradesh government to pay the farmers the difference between official minimum support price (MSP) and the price at which they sell their crops. Besides raking up these issues, the Congress Party led by party president Rahul Gandhi, who has addressed several election rallies in the state, has also taken Prime Minister Narendra Modi head on over issues like corruption and the harsh impact of demonetisation. The Prime Minister, during his rallies in the state, also has hit the Congress hard. His reply to the Congress on salvos fired at him on the issue of demonetisation is that the hard step had to be taken to combat the scourge of black money generated due to rampant corruption during the earlier Congress regime.

Media, in general, has refrained from projecting the poll outcome in MP. There has been a lot of talk of Congress frittering away its advantage arising from the anti-incumbent sentiment as a result of inner-party rivalry. Congress leaders have dismissed this charge and their argument is that the regional satraps are doing their best to ensure the victory of Congress candidates in their respective areas of influence. In the past, Congress has always emerged victorious when it has followed this strategy.

Although, there is no wave in Madhya Pradesh, but the undercurrents for change are being felt across the State.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)

Lalit Shastri

Lalit Shastri is an Indian journalist, editor, environmentalist and a wildlife film maker

Story highlights

In the Madhya Pradesh Assembly election, while the BJP is not leaving a single stone unturned to return to power for the fourth time in a row, the Congress also is using every tactic to turn the tables on the BJP.