PM Modi, Shivraj 'Mama', loyal voters may see BJP through in Madhya Pradesh

By Surajit DasguptaFirst Published 28, Nov 2018, 5:43 PM IST
Highlights

The only factor working against the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government in Madhya Pradesh is the conduct of some of the MLAs of the ruling party and a few underperforming ministers

Bad news for the Congress in Madhya Pradesh: There is no anti-incumbency working against chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, fondly referred ro as "Mama" (maternal uncle) by many among his followers. As a case in point here and now, voters are just about trickling in at the booths across the state, suggesting there is no anti-incumbency. By 2.30pm on Wednesday, the turnout was just 37.16%. If the attendance gains some momentum in the closing hours, a respectable turnout greater than 70% can be expected. That places Chouhan in a position more comfortable than that of Raman Singh whose Chhattisgarh saw higher than 70% voter participation even in the dreaded Maoist-infested regions.

There is, of course, some good news for the Congress too. People are miffed with several sitting ministers and MLAs. Overall, Chouhan was advised to drop 80% of his sitting MLAs from the nomination list to fight anti-incumbency of 15 long BJP years. The chief minister could garner the courage to drop a mere 40%, apprehensive of the possibility of rebellion or sabotage in the ranks by those who would be denied the 'tickets'. This dithering can cost the state government several seats, provided the Kamal Nath-Jyotiraditya Scindia tussle and a sulking Digvijaya Singh do not play spoilers for the Congress. To minimise his losses, the chief minister has patched up with bête noire Kailash Vijayvargiya, offering his son a ticket.

What is worrisome for the opposition, the Madhya Pradesh voter is known to be loyal. Further, they have the possible impact this Assembly election will have on the general election of 2019 in mind, where they do not want Prime Minister Narendra Modi to bat on a difficult wicket.

The reporters and stringers of MyNation have furnished our readers with information on how Chouhan turned the tables on the challengers to his power.

Also read: Upper caste-OBC protest may affect Madhya Pradesh election, spill over to other states 

During the whirlwind tour this columnist just concluded, the local journalists — quite hostile to the current dispensation, it appeared at the press conference on Monday — opined that the voter in the state switches his loyalty with much difficulty. The survey on our site, held at the busy Chowk Bazaar of Bhopal, saw men and women, Hindus and Muslims alike fall over one another to express their desire to see Chouhan in power for the fourth time.

Interestingly, the impression of a strongman — referred to as a 'dabang' by admirers and a 'bahubali' by detractors — does not always work to the disadvantage of the incumbent. In the constituency of youth leader, minister and BJP MLA Vishwas Sarang, for example, his challenger Mahendra Singh Chouhan hurled as wild allegations as they get during the interview with this correspondent. When out in the streets of Bhopal's Narela, the people MyNation spoke to accepted some of the charges, but in an adulatory tone! 'He gets our work done' was the opinion of an overwhelming majority in the area. Sarang, who had won the last election by a margin of more than 27,000 votes is, therefore, bragging about the city, saying he will now win by a margin of more than 1,00,000 votes.

On the contrary, revenue and science & technology minister Umashankar Gupta, whom nobody accuses of taking recourse to strongarm tactics, is less likely to win. His electorate is not happy with his performance, MyNation found in its survey after an interview with him. But this is not a representative sample that can be used to read the mood of the entire, big state.

The BJP has reasons to worry in faraway Bundelkhand, the Madhya Pradesh section of which is as miserable as its Uttar Pradesh counterpart. But the voters of Sagar, Tikamgarh, Panna, Chhatarpur, Datia and Shivpuri are divided so much along caste lines, they are denying the Congress the fun of a bipolar fight. If Dalits vote for the Congress, the OBCs won't and vice versa.

That takes us to Chouhan's caste, a card the chief minister is reluctant to play overtly — reminiscent of how uncomfortable Modi used to feel mentioning his caste while he was the chief political executive of Gujarat, 2001-2014. Nevertheless, the OBCs can be said to be backing him to the hilt based on the feedback from our district and village-based stringers.

No political analysis is complete without the talk of economics. Here, Chouhan, again like Modi, cannot be placed on either side of the capitalism-socialism binary. If the MP chief minister is not screaming loan-waivers from the rooftops now, he did not do that at the hustings five years ago either. The so-called farm distress cannot, hence, be a decider. As seen on television, when some farmers complain they have not been compensated, others pounce on the 'aggrieved', claiming that the cribbing few have received crores!

Finally, Congress president Rahul Gandhi's fixation with the Rafale deal — or his compulsion to keep the issue 'burning' owing to the party's parleys with Dassault Aviation's competitors  — has failed to strike a chord in the hinterland. Nath's pitch for 90% Muslim votes has put off the Hindu-dominated state. In a situation where there was no urgent reason for removing the ruling party from power, the opposition did little more than beating about the bush.

Also read: Top Congress leader met US arms companies before Rafale storm arrived?

The Congress is betraying nervousness by cribbing about 'malfunctioning' EVMs. Political observers normally read this as an early sign of conceding defeat. 

On the other hand, when the BJP government of Madhya Pradesh counts as its achievements regular electric supply, potable water from the Narmada to every household, road connectivity in a much better shape than what it was in the pre-2003 Congress era, a palpably peaceful state with no major law-and-order issue, few can contest the claims. Psephology is sticking the neck out. So, we stop at that.

Last Updated 28, Nov 2018, 7:30 PM IST