Replay of Assembly polls likely

Apr 22nd, 2009 | By Elections2009 | Category: Madhya Pradesh

Riding high on the popularity of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan, the BJP has the faction-ridden Congress on the backfoot in Madhya Pradesh

 Madhya Pradesh, which goes to the polls to elect 29 Lok Sabha members in two phases — April 23 (13 seats) and April 30 (16 seats) — is bracing for a straight electoral contest between the two traditional political rivals, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress.

The political landscape has not changed much since the Assembly polls in November-December 2008. The BJP was returned to power for a second term, riding high on the popularity and the clean image of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan.

Though the BJP won 144 seats, its number actually fell from the 173 it held in the previous Assembly and the party’s vote share came down from 42.5 per cent to 37.6 per cent. In comparison, the number of seats won by the Congress rose from 38 to 71, but the party’s vote share went up by less than one per cent from 31.6 per cent to 32.4 per cent. The third contender — Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) — increased its tally of Assembly seats from two to seven and its vote share from 7.3 per cent to nine per cent.

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Many of the issues which featured in the November-December 2008 Assembly polls, dubbed a semi-final of the April-May 2009 Lok Sabha polls, remain. If Mr. Chauhan had sought another term from the voters to transform the State into a “golden Madhya Pradesh,” his campaign relies this time round on the alleged “step-motherly” treatment meted out by the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre. He is waging an all-out offensive against the Congress for not giving the State its due share in Central schemes.

The Congress has ended up helping the BJP by its failure to galvanise the party, its supporters and workers and putting in place a strong party organisation on the ground. The Congress has also been plagued by groupism. Factions led by former Chief Ministers Arjun Singh, Digvijay Singh, Union Commerce Minister Kamal Nath and Union Minister Jyotiradiyta Scindia have only made things difficult for the party.

Taking over the reins of the State administration from Babulal Gaur in November 2005, Mr. Chauhan was able to establish direct contact with the people, particularly in rural areas. Simple, hardworking and accessible, his schemes such as “Ladli Lakshmi Yojana” and “Kanyadan Yojana,” providing educational and monetary grants to girls, have had a discernable public impact. His “Nyaya Yatra” to protest against the alleged injustice being done by the Centre to Madhya Pradesh also evoked a good response across the State.

In 2003, the BJP, led by maverick Uma Bharti, wrested power from the Congress on the slogan of “bijli, sadak and paani” (power, roads and water), but many of the problems still remain. Though the road network and conditions have improved vastly with the help of the Central Road Fund (CRF), the lack of power and water scarcity still affects the State. The Malwa region — Indore-Ujjain belt — suffers from acute water shortage with some areas getting water supply once in nine days; and in some areas the groundwater table has fallen to alarmingly deep levels.

The BJP has been quick to blame the Centre for allotting less than its share of coal for generating power.

The star campaigner of the Congress, Rahul Gandhi, party general secretary, has blamed the State government for failing to utilise funds judiciously.

In the 2004 general elections, the BJP won 25 Lok Sabha seats and the Congress four — Chhindwara, Guna, Ratlam (then Jhabua), and Gwalior. The Congress hopes to better its position and put up a fight on at least a dozen seats in the State.

The BSP, relying on its social engineering formula that brought it success in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, hopes to pose a challenge in at least four seats which border U.P.

The Congress’ bid to project the UPA government’s achievements in the form of National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) and loan waiver for farmers, have failed to enthuse voters; in fact, charges of unfair distribution of job cards have plagued the scheme. In this scenario, it appears that the Lok Sabha election results will be more or less an extension of the Assembly polls, which went in favour of the BJP.

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