BHOPAL: BJP has won three consecutive assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh and it now hopes that after this long period of 15 years, people would once again repose their faith in the party.
Many within the BJP reassure themselves by saying that the party’s vote share in MP was far ahead of Congress in the last Assembly elections (the difference was 8%), and it is not easy for Congress to make such a leap.
But despite the optimism shown by ruling party leaders about a fourth straight victory in the state, there are several factors suggesting that the long honeymoon of electorate with Chouhan.
Shivraj Singh Chouhan has been CM for 13 years, may not continue and this election is not going to be a cakewalk for BJP.
Firstly, farmers’ anger remains a major issue in Madhya Pradesh. After the agitation in different parts of the state and the Mandsaur firing that led to death of five persons, discontent remains in rural areas, especially in Malwa-Nimar.
The farmers constitute one of the biggest blocks in the state and their disillusionment is enough to alter the election results. Though the state government tried to reach out to farmers lately and populist schemes including Sambal Yojana have apparently brought the anger down, but large sections of farming community still appear upset.
Secondly, there seems no consolidation of Scheduled Caste (SC) in favour of BJP in this election. The party had won most of the seats reserved for SCs in 2013 elections. But the situation has changed in the last couple of years.
The police action against Dalit youths, who were protesting dilution in provisions of Prevention of Atrocities on SC/ST Act, hasn’t gone down well with the community.
The anger is more in Gwalior-Chambal region where Dalit population is concentrated. MP has nearly 16% Dalits and a shift in Dalit votes can affect BJP’s chances of coming to power.
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Thirdly, BJP had done exceedingly well on 47 reserved ST seats in the last Assembly poll. It had won 32 ST seats. Congress hopes to do well compared to its performance in the last election.
Tribals form 21% of state’s population and were traditionally Congress supporters. In the past, BJP had made huge efforts and managed to corner majority of tribal seats.
Now, the BJP needs to do really well on these seats apart from two dozen other constituencies where ST voters have a substantial presence. Right now, tribal voters seem to be not much enthusiastic for BJP.
Fourthly, after three terms, anti-incumbency is finally a factor in this election. BJP’s internal survey had also pointed towards it. Opinion polls also suggested that it the party was losing ground.
For many years, it was common to hear on the streets that BJP wins due to ‘Shivraj factor’ in Madhya Pradesh. Outsiders wondered that how despite facing allegations in Dumper scam or Vyapam, he remains popular.
However, the situation has changed–now his speeches no longer draw people in hordes and there is little excitement on faces. He is still trying very hard, addresses numerous rallies and goes from town to town, telling people how he brought MP from the ‘dark era of Congress rule’ and took it on path of development but the reaction of audience says it all.
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Fifth factor is the anger among sections of upper castes. Chouhan had earlier backed promotion in reservation. The opposition to his stand had begun almost two years ago and it soon took the form of a movement.
There have been statewide rallies by SAPAKS, the group leading the protests. Notwithstanding the recent split in SAPAKS, there is a section among Upper Castes, which has turned against BJP and has been giving calls to vote against the party though some are still anti-Congress too and want to press NOTA.
The sixth factor is the failure in providing jobs and government’s inability to bring industries. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan may claim that the roads in MP rival the roads of US (or that they are even better than roads in America), the fact is that there were industrial summits but the promised investment didn’t arrive. Youngsters rue that they have to leave the state as there are fewer employment opportunities.
However, BJP still hopes that PM Narendra Modi’s popularity and populist schemes in MP like power at Rs 200 per month will help it wrest the state once again.
The party is well aware that it faces a big challenge this time. But it is banking on its strong organisation up to the booth level and the crucial support of RSS’ strong cadre against Congress, which appears resurgent but is lacking in funds and manpower.
As far as Congress is concerned, it is a do-or-die battle for them after being out of power for three terms. Ruling party’s defeat in several by-polls has given them a reason to believe that their time has come.
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