MP Elections 2018: Unfolding political drama in Madhya Pradesh

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(CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan addressing a rally during a by-election in Kolaras)

Madhya Pradesh, which has a 230-member assembly, is scheduled to go to the polls by the year-end. Elections in Madhya Pradesh has always been about Congress versus BJP but this time there are several other parties which are preparing to challenge these two grand old parties. Outfits like the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Samajwadi Party (SP), the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the Gondwana Ganatantra Party (GPP) and the newly floated SAPAKS Samaj, among others, are getting ready to throw their hats in the poll ring.

The Congress, in opposition since 2003, has named its veteran leader and former Union minister Kamal Nath as the new state president as part of its efforts to strengthen the party and dislodge the BJP from power. The BJP, too, has made changes in its organization ahead of the polls. The party has appointed Rakesh Singh, the Lok Sabha MP from Jabalpur who has vast organizational experience, as its state unit chief.

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(Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia, Madhya Pradesh Congress Leaders)

2018 assembly elections are not going to be easy for BJP because of Vyapam scam and farmer distress last year in Mandsaur district, where 5 people were killed during the police firing. The Congress has designed its campaign upon the issues like waiving farmer loans, corruption, infant mortality rate and economic growth.

Both the parties have already kick-started their campaigns. Congress started its campaign from Mandsaur where party president Rahul Gandhi raised the issue of farmer loans and attacked state government for neglecting the plight of farmers. On the other hand, BJP started its campaign through Jan Aashirwad Yatra in the Bundelkhand region of the state. The yatra will cover all the 230 districts during which CM Shivraj Singh Chauhan will address more than 700 rallies highlighting the achievements of government on the ground.

Scheduled Castes, which comprise 21% of the state’s population, have 37 seats reserved for them. Therefore, the advent of smaller regional outfits is an interesting development. Most of these parties belong to tribal areas which means they have strong control over tribal vote bank. For managing the electoral mathematics, this will be a very crucial factor.

A rebel group of the Janata Dal (U), led by former Union minister Sharad Yadav, is working on stitching a broad alliance with parties like the GGP, which has pockets of influence in tribal areas, and its breakaway faction, the Bharatiya Gondwana Party (BGP). The Samanya Pichhada Evam Alpsankhyak Varg Samaj (General, Backward and Minority Welfare Society), better known as SAPAKS Samaj, an organisation born out of opposition to the government’s reservation policy in jobs, promotion and education, has also decided to contest all the 230 seats in the state. But instead of affecting BJP these parties are only going to benefit the BJP as they will divide the votes of Congress.

For Congress, winning this election on its own may seem little bit difficult. That is why there have been media reports of Congress reaching to outfits like SP, BSP and smaller tribal parties to stitch a coalition against the Saffron party.

Another interesting aspect of this election is the use of social media by both the parties to influence voters. Both the parties are aiming to set up at least One Lakh WhatsApp groups for propagating the party’s agenda and ideology. Nearly 65,000 ‘cyber warriors’ of BJP are all set to take on ‘Rajiv Ke Sipahi‘ of Congress in cyberspace to woo young voters on social media platforms. The state Congress has set up a team of around 4,000 ‘Rajiv Ke Sipahi’ (named after their leader and former PM Rajiv Gandhi credited with the digital revolution in India) to battle it out against the BJP on social media. Both the parties said that they are going to reach out to people on popular social media sites like Facebook and Twitter but their special focus will be on WhatsApp because of its wider reach.

Now, Madhya Pradesh is all set to witness a high octane political drama. BJP will try to continue its rampage, based on its organizational strengths. While Congress, with revamped strategy and unbreakable unity, will try to dent the political fortunes of BJP in the state and come back to power. Not to forget, these results will have a significant impact on the 2019 General Assembly elections.

Author: Abhimanyu Shrivastava

He is a law student at University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Dehradun.