File Photo: Shivraj Singh Chouhan Photograph:( Others )
The general perception is that the Congress is not strong enough to take on the BJP and this perhaps explains the rise of smaller outfits seeking to make the most of BJP’s 15 year-long anti-incumbency.
In crucial battleground of Madhya Pradesh, groups based on caste and tribe are joining the electoral fray even as the Congress tries to find its real voice and plank amidst its attempts to recast its image in ‘soft Hindutva’.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan, meanwhile, is on a spree of announcing one sop after another, desperate to ensure that he can return to power a record fourth time.
Madhya Pradesh has a total of 230 seats, and presently BJP holds a lion’s share of them (165).
Samanya Pichhra Alpsankhyak Kalyan Samaj (Sapaks) claims to speak for all castes but is, in essence, an upper-caste dominated group that opposes reservation on caste-lines. It has said that the group will support candidates in as many seats as possible. Similarly, Jai Adivasi Yuva Shakti (JAYS), a tribal outfit, has been campaigning for months across tribal-dominated areas in the state and is going to contest at least 80 seats. It has also roped in Bollywood actor Govinda to campaign during elections.
Besides these two groups, AAP is also in the electoral fray and is likely to get some traction in urban areas. Another player will be Swaraj Abhiyan which has been active in Madhya Pradesh for the last couple of years and will support candidates who wish to contest on its farmer-driven agenda.
Traditionally, Madhya Pradesh has been a bi-polar state with power changing hands between the BJP and the Congress. However, the Congress has been out of power in the state since 2003 and post-2014 the Modi phenomenon has worsened its condition at the ground with the party struggling to find booth-level workers.
The Congress was planning an alliance with the BSP. However, BSP has already announced its first list of 22 candidates and is maintaining that it will fight 230 Assembly seats on its own. It’s a failure of the Congres because interestingly the combined vote share of Congress-BSP almost matches that of the BJP, and therefore if the two parties were able to work out an alliance, the BJP might have found it difficult to counter it.
Over the last 15 years, the BJP has grown from strength to strength. RSS, its ideological mentor, too has come to dominate the party and government policy of the state.
While this has created a very stable supporter base for the party, it has also generated resentment among cadres who have come to harbour a feeling of being ignored and sidelined. The most recent example of this was the resignation of BJP Minister Padma Shukla from the state cabinet a day before Prime Minister Modi’s rally in Bhopal.
While it is impossible to estimate the size of the disgruntled section within BJP, it can be safely said that it is big enough to give the party sleepless nights. To address some of this resentment it has appointed Lok Sabha MP from Jabalpur, Rakesh Singh as its state president.
The party has also reached out directly to the electorate with schemes and sops that it should have ideally implemented years ago. The MP government has recently announced a pay hike for ‘guest teachers’, loan waivers for farmers, increase in stipends for MDM cooks, and government doctors as well the creation of 38 new administrative blocks in 29 districts.
However, the general perception is that the Congress is not strong enough to take on the BJP and this perhaps explains the rise of smaller outfits seeking to make the most of BJP’s 15 year-long anti-incumbency.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)