Raje in Rajasthan
Ahead of the November polls, the ruling Congress and the opposition BJP remain mired in infighting.
The tussle between former chief minister Vasundhara Raje and BJP MLA Gulab Chand Kataria, said to be a part of the RSS lobby, has not only deprived the party of a definite leadership but also of a poll plan. Raje, whose stature in the state is beyond doubt and who has a majority of the BJP MLAs behind her, is still clamouring for full charge of the party, which is yet to embark on its poll campaign.
In the Congress, Union cabinet berths given to C P Joshi and Sachin Pilot sent out signals of Joshiís influence. Said to be close to Rahul Gandhi, Joshi has been the counter-force in the state Congress. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, however, has kept demonstrating the high commandís faith in him, managing to get Sonia Gandhi to inaugurate key projects.
His stumbling block at home will be the Jats and the Gurjjars. His quota for special backward classes includes one for Gurjjars, which could hit legal roadblocks. The Jats are upset about the implication of Mahipal Maderna in the Bhanwari Devi murder and his subsequent sacking from the government. Following the Bharatpur firing case, the party has also lost the trust of Muslims, too.
Chouhan again in MP
By the time Madhya Pradsh goes to polls, the BJP will have completed ten uninterrupted years in a state that usually voted Congress until 2003. As of today, the BJPís strength is 152 compared to the Congressís 66 in an essentially bipolar state.
The Congress count today is lower than the 71 it won in 2008. Its task is cut out: it will have to get its divided house in order to challenge Shivraj Singh Chouhan. Not used to being in opposition, the party took a long time to reconcile with reality after a humiliating defeat in 2003.
Chouhan, who will lead the party in the elections, replaced Babulal Gaur in 2005 after the latter had replaced Uma Bharti a year earlier. Chouhan has now completed seven years, the longest by any non-Congress chief minister. Uma Bharti challenged him in 2008 but was soundly defeated, and is now no longer a threat to him, for her return to the BJP was on the condition that she would keep away from MP politics. Chouhan, therefore, has no one to challenge him from