The battle lines have been drawn ahead of the November 3 bypolls for 28 assembly seats in Madhya Pradesh with both the Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress announcing their lists of candidates for the crucial political war.
However, seeing the numbers in the assembly presently, it seems an uphill task for the Congress that had regained power in Madhya Pradesh after 15 years in 2018 but was ousted in March this year following an exodus led by senior leader Jyotiraditya Scindia.
The Congress numbers in the MP assembly have seen a bumpy ride over the past 18 months. Starting from 114 seats after the 2018 assembly polls, the party was bolstered with another seat through veteran Kantilal Bhuria in a bypoll in Jhabua.
However, with the death of senior MLA Banwarilal Sharma in Joura, the figure returned to 114, two short of the majority figure of 116, which the party had attained with the help of four independents, two BSP MLAs and a legislator from the Samajwadi Party.
The real jolt came in March 2020 when 22 MLAs left with Jyotiraditya Scindia and joined the BJP, bringing down the Congress number to 92. With three more—Sumitra Devi Kasdekar, Pradyumn Singh Lodhi and Narayan Patel— following them to the ruling party weeks later, the Congress was depleted to 89 seats. After the recent death of Biaora MLA Govardhan Dangi, the grand old party has been reduced to 88 seats.
The BJP, despite losing the Jhabua bypoll and death of Agar MLA Manohar Untwal, still sits comfortably with 107 seats in the assembly, just nine away from achieving the majority mark on its own.
Still the opposition Congress has been exuding confidence in the past few months and appears hopeful of coming back to power.
“Ye ladai asli aur nakli Congressiyon ke beech hai, BJP ke sath nahin (It’s not a fight with BJP, but a fight between real and fake Congressmen),” MP Congress media cell vice-president Bhupendra Gupta said, claiming that the public is angry with those who "betrayed" the party.
“We will return to power easily,” said Gupta, pointing to the large crowd that gathered at Kamal Nath’s meet in Bhander, "despite the BJP implementing a nefarious agenda to malign the party candidate".
Congress MLA Kunal Chaudhary said the party is going all out to win the 28 seats. "Even if we fall short by some seats, our old allies will back us," he added.
BJP spokesperson Rajneesh Agrawal rejected Congress claims, saying the people will offer a fitting reply to the opposition for the "massive corruption and betrayal to the public" in the Kamal Nath government. He added that there are no problems and the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government will cruise well beyond the majority mark.
The BSP, SP and four independents (all former Congressmen) who lost their significance after the BJP returning to power with Congress rebels, could hold the key once more if both the mainstream parties fail to get a clear majority after the bypolls. These seven MLAs hold more importance for the Congress than the BJP which needs just nine wins out of the 28 seats where by-elections will be held.