Bihar will soon going to vote to elect a new government. The by-elections for 28 seats in Madhya Pradesh will also decide the fate of the Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led BJP government which was formed after the defection of 25 Congress MLAs in March this year.
The December 2018 election gave Congress a slight edge over the BJP. The latter won 108 seats while Congress ended up winning 114. in a 230-strong assembly of the state. The remaining 8 seats were won by Independents, BSP and SP. Since BJP’s tally came down by more than 50 seats and all gains were made by the Congress, it was logical for Kamal Nath to form the government in the State. Seven other MLAs also supported him in the assembly, taking the tally for government support to 121.
However in March this year, Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia led a coup to his government and 22 of his supporter MLAs, six of them were ministers in the Kamal Nath government, resigned. Following this, three more Congress MLAs resigned and the government came crashing.
The BJP though succeeded to form the alternate government in the reduced strength of the House of 203 (2 MLAs died) in which BJP had 107, the somersault by 25 Scindia camp legislator baffled the common voter. Soon, in every constituency where Congress MLA had resigned and subsequently joined the BJP, the rate of transfer became a common point of discussion.
Congress leader Digvijay Singh posted ‘traitor rate card’ to mock MLAs who switched sided to help BJP formed government. Ruling partly leaders filed defamation suits.
The other point of contention emerged with the apparent discomfort among the BJP cadre in supporting the new-entrants against whom they had fought a pitched battle in the last polls.
The outsider tag and the rate of transfer may emerge as the central issue in these elections especially in Gwalior Chambal division’s 16 seats. Congress is attempting to make “Maan Samman” of the voter its main electoral plank in these seats.
Interestingly, Scidhia’s entry also disrupts BJP’s internal politics in this belt. Both Central Minister Narendra Singh Tomar of Morena and Powerful State Mnister Narottam Mishra are from Gwalior. Some other leaders like Jaibahn Singh Pavaiyya — whose whole politics revolves around opposing the Scindia family—are confused about how to go about these elections.
For Congress, Digvijay Singh is not being seen around much during the campaign. Congress strategy seem to be to keep these elections focussed around Kamal Nath’s one year stint as Chief Minister.
The BJP did not have much to do in ticket distribution as it had to put all 25 turncoat MLAs who had left Congress to join the saffron party. The BJP’s campaign is entirely dependent on Shivraj Singh Chouhan. The onus of course is also on Scindia get his supporters re-elected.
By-elections in Morena will take place in five segments — Morena, Jaura, Sumaoli, Dimani and Ambah. The Bhind district, where elections are being held on two segments, is not much different either except in Mehgaon where ticket distribution fight between rival group has forced Congress to bring a candidate from the other constituency. In Shivpuri and Datia District seats — Pohri, Karera and Bhander — Congress is trying to make this election a prestige issue for the voters.
Guna and Ashok Nagar Disricts seats — Banori, Ashok Nagar and Mungaoli — are also witnessing elections on similar lines. The real challenge for the BJP is perform well in the 16 seats of Gwalior Chambal Divisions where it faces a tough fight from the Congress nominees.
The rest of the 12 seats are spread in 12 different districts and that is the area of hope for the BJP. The contest here too is far from easy.
The BJP is counting on the fact that Congress would need a miracle to win all 28 seats and they barely need nine to remain in power. Even if BJP wins seven of these seats, its tally would go up from 107 to 114 and Congress would be stuck at 109, an exact opposite of the 2018 poll result. The Congress, despite having a strike rate of 75 per cent, may still have to sit in the Opposition.
Kamal Nath is working tirelessly to revive his fortunes as he knows that every seat is important for him. If he is able to pull through in 24 of the 28 seats, it will put his tally at 112, just one ahead of the BJP’s 111. We might see another round of power play and horse trading to form the government.
Needless to say, if Congress crosses the 20-mark which it certainly can, it would be a moral loss for the BJP and Shivraj Singh Chouhan and pave way for Congress’s clear victory in 2023.