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Battle lines drawn

Battle lines for the November Vidhan Sabha elections in Madhya Pradesh have been drawn. While the Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is continuing with his whirlwind ‘Jan Ashirwad Yatra’, the Congress has constituted several committees to take care of various election-related tasks. There are categorical indications that Chouhan is drawing massive crowds wherever he is going in the course of his yatra. There is no denying the fact that at present, he is the most popular leader in the state. Perhaps looking to the popularity of Chouhan, Congress has nominated Union Minister of State Jyotiraditya Scindia as the its chief campaigner.

There is no doubt that Scindia is today the most popular leader of the Congress in the State. It is ironical that despite sixty-six years of Independence, former royals continue to enjoy popularity among the people. There is still a substantial section of the populace, which considers Scindias as the ‘Mai-Baap’ in their former kingdom. There are more than forty Vidhan Sabha constituencies where no other leader, including Chouhan, can match the popularity of Scindias.

Jyotiraditya is the third generation politician from the Scindia family. The first was late Vijaya Raje Scindia, who first entered the Lok Sabha as a Congress nominee. Subsequently, she parted company with the Congress and joined hands with the Janasangh to overthrow the Congress government lead by late Pandit DP Mishra, who was regarded as the ‘Iron man’ of Madhya Pradesh. Initially, her son Madhavrao Scindia joined the Janasangh but soon he threw his lot with the Congress and occupied senior positions in the successive Congress governments till his tragic death in an air mishap.

After his death, Jyotidraditya entered the Lok Sabha from his father’s constituency and soon became a minister. Now, it appears that the Congress may decide to appoint him as the Chief Minister if the party secures majority in the coming elections. While the Congress has named Jyotiraditya as the chief of the campaign committee, Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Kamalnath has been entrusted with the task of coordination between various committees, constituted with the approval of the Congress president Sonia Gandhi. The committees constituted are State Election campaign committee, Election Management Committee, Assembly Election Publicity, Publications and Media Committee and chargesheet Drafting Committee. By and large, representation has been given to various factions in these committees. Observers point out that important role has not been assigned to AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh. Sources close to Digvijay Singh point out that he himself has opted for a low profile role in the forthcoming elections.

While the Congress leadership has to strike a balance between various factions and leaders in giving assignments, the BJP, for the present, is not divided into factions. Chouhan continues to be the undisputed leader and there are indications, that he may have the final say not only in the selection of candidates but in the formulation of electoral strategy too.

In the midst of Chief Minister’s state tour, the BJP organised two separate rallies in Bhopal - one for the youth, and the other for the women. In these rallies, the CM gave several promises involving crores of rupees of financial burden on the state exchequer. Experts point out that the state does not have adequate financial resources to fulfill the liberal promises and freebies being announced by the chief minister for various sections of the society.

While choosing candidates for the Vidhan Sabha poll the BJP may have to deny tickets to several such sitting party legislators who have lost popularity because of their various acts of commission and omission. According to conservative estimates, about 50 to 60 sitting legislators may have to be dropped because of the anti-incumbency factor. If the BJP decides to deny tickets to them the party will have to deal with these party workers who might raise banner of revolt. In fact, Babulal Gaur, a nine-term BJP MLA and former Chief Minister has publicity warned that the party must eliminate corrupt and unpopular Ministers and MLAs if it is serious about winning a third consecution term in the government.

Though Chouhan has taken several steps to woo Muslims but the BJP is not sure now the Muslim voters will behave. It may be mentioned that sometime back Chouhan announced in the Vidhan Sabha that under no circumstances he would implement recommendations of the Sachhar Committee.  The BJP also admits that there are about 40 seats where Muslims voters could influence poll verdict. A local paper reported that Chouhan rushed to New Delhi on the day when crucial
decision about the timing of Narendra Modi’s prime ministerial candidature was to be taken. He told the RSS-BJP leadership that decision about Narendra Modi should be taken after the Vidhan Sabha polls. Whether his opinion influences the decision or not, he must have been happy to learn the news that Modi wants to serve Gujarat till 2017 and that he has no prime ministerial ambitions.IPA
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