People’s disenchantment with the BJP government of 15 years in Madhya Pradesh is much too obvious. The party MLAs and ministers face people’s anger whenever they go to their constituencies. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan abruptly abandoned his Jan Ashirvad Yatra much before the scheduled day of conclusion because the people had lost interest and stopped joining it. A change appears to be on the cards. But, will it take place? Polling in the state is scheduled to take place on November 28.
Madhya Pradesh has essentially been a two-party State. It has been either the Congress or the BJP, with a few regional parties like BSP or SP or GGP (Gondwana Ganatantra Party), occasionally playing a peripheral role. This time, though, the poll scene has been blurred by a plethora of local parties or outfits displaying interest in the elections. BSP and SP, too, have announced their decision to put forward their candidates in almost all the constituencies instead of confining themselves to the areas where they have strong presence. The two parties are in a position to upset the outcome in several constituencies unless there is a wave-like condition in favour of one party or the other.
A major issue worrying both the main parties, BJP in particular as it is the ruling party in the State and at the Centre, is the anger of the Sapaks against the amendment in the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act to nullify the Supreme Court judgement which had disallowed arrest of the accused under the provisions of the Act without investigation. Sapaks is an organisation of State government employees belonging to the general, OBC and minority categories. It had come into existence to protest against the State government’s decision to allow reservation in promotion for SCs and STs and restoration of the stringent provisions of the Act. Sapaks activists have for some time been holding black flag demonstrations against Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and his ministers as well as other BJP leaders. Even Congress leaders, PCC chief Kamal Nath and Campaign Committee chairman Jyotiraditya Scindia, had to face their ire for supporting the amendment in Parliament.
GGP is confined to the tribal regions of Mahakoshal. Another tribal outfit, jai Adivasi Yuva Shakti or JAYS has sprung up in the tribal-dominated Malwa-Nimar region. Though recently formed, JAYS has already alarmed both the BJP and the Congress. There are 47 seats reserved for the Scheduled Tribes in the 230-seat Madhya Pradesh Assembly and the two tribal parties expect to make a good show on these seats.
To everyone’s surprise, Bihar-based Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) has announced its intention to contest on 66 seats in Madhya Pradesh where it was never known to have had any interest.
Away from the media attention, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has for several months been campaigning in the rural areas, particularly among the farmers and tribals. Its State unit is headed by Alok Agrawal, who has for decades been fighting for the rights of the tribals affected by Sardar Sarovar Dam and other Narmada projects in the Malwa-Nimar region. Party president Arvind Kejriwal has announced him as the Chief Minister if AAP comes to power.
The real contest, at least on the ground, appears to be between the two traditional rivals, the Congress and the BJP. Congress has almost taken it for granted that the people have this time made up their mind to oust the BJP and give their mandate to the Congress to form the government. For the present, it is engaged in its favourite game of infighting, with at least four aspirants for the post of Chief Minister. They are PCC chief Kamal Nath, Campaign Committee chairman Jyotiraditya Scindia (both MPs), Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Ajay Singh and former PCC chief Suresh Pachouri.
What former Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh is up to is anybody’s guess. He undertook a six-month Narmada parikrama and was expecting to impress the party high command which did not happen. He had announced towards the closure of his parikrama that he had collected a lot of material (photos and videos) about the Chouhan government’s corruption but he has not made any use of that material, though it is more than six months since his parikrama concluded. He had tried to project his wife Amrita Rai as a party candidate either for Assembly or Lok Sabha next year but his plan is reported to have been vetoed by the high command. He recently told his supporters that he would not campaign for the party nor would address any rallies because his speeches damaged the Congress prospects. Then there are reports that he clashed with Jyotiraditya Scindia on the selection of candidates at a Central Election Committee meeting presided over by party president Rahul Gandhi.
BJP despite all, is the only party which has been systematically going through poll preparations for several months. Party president Amit Shah is constantly moving around the poll-bound States including Madhya Pradesh, addressing rallies and interacting with party leaders and workers to get the feedback and give them directions. It has rented an entire hotel on Hoshangabad Road and set up its high-tech war room there to monitor and organise poll campaign.