Madhya Pradesh election 2018: 5 key factors that could determine poll outcome for BJP, Congress

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New Delhi | Updated: December 07, 2018 12:43 PM

Madhya Pradesh Assembly election 2018: The outcome of the prestige battle between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party for the Madhya Pradesh throne will be out on December 11.

Madhya Pradesh election 2018Madhya Pradesh election 2018: 5 key factors that could determine poll outcome for BJP, Congress

Madhya Pradesh Assembly election 2018: The outcome of the prestige battle between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party for the Madhya Pradesh throne will be out on December 11. Whether the Congress, which ran an aggressive campaign against the ruling dispensation, is able to halt Chief Minister’s three-time winning run, will also have a bearing on the bigger test of Lok Sabha in 2019. In the general elections in 2014, BJP had won 26 of 29 Lok Sabha seats from the state.

Though the main contest is between ruling BJP and opposition Congress, other political players like BSP and Aam Aadmi Party (AAAP) are also in the fray. While Shivraj Singh Chouhan has emerged as the frontrunner for the CM’s chair once again, Congress’ Jyotiraditya Scindia is the second most preferred candidate for chief ministership in surveys. The BJP has been ruling the state since 2003 with Shivraj sitting at its helm since 2005. In 2008 and 2013, Shivraj had led BJP to victory with a record margin. This time too, the BJP is hoping to repeat the good show.

Also Read: Assembly election 2018 opinion polls

The state saw a total turn out of 76.39% on November 28 with Congress claiming there was a strong anti-incumbency vote just like 2003 when the Digvijaya Singh government was ousted by BJP’s Uma Bharti. However, the BJP has dismissed these claims and attributed the high turn out to its voter mobilisation that will come as an incentive to Shivraj and he will again form the government.

As Madhya Pradesh braces for counting day when a new government will take shape along with Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Mizoram, we take a look at 5 key factors that will be crucial in determining the result:

Anti-Incumbency

The BJP has been in power in Madhya Pradesh for the last 15 years. Shivraj Singh Chouhan has been the CM for 13 of those 15 years. In every election, he has faced anti-incumbency but managed to successfully sail through it. Reports of corruption, Vyapam have surely dented Shivraj’s image but he is still very popular and the favourite among locals. Anger over the Mandsaur incident have also dealt a blow to Shivraj’s prospects. Yet, most opinion polls have predicted a fourth term for Shivraj. According to India Today-Axis-My India survey, 46% people in Madhya Pradesh want to see Shivraj as the CM once again while 32% have exuded confidence in Scindia’s leadership.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan

During the campaigns, the BJP was banking on its ability to organise its cadre on the ground with support from the RSS. Just like Narendra Modi, Shivraj’s image has been cast as a pro-development leader. The BJP highlighted its development works and pro-farmer budget to boost its election campaign. Whether the Congress has been able to capitalise on the anti-incumbency sentiment is what could prove crucial for it.

Adivasi, Dalit communities

Besides Muslims, the tribals and the Dalit community are also seen as the Congress’ traditional vote-bank. However, unlike in other states, the voters in Madhya Pradesh are divided between the BJP and BSP. The BSP had in the previous polls bagged over 6% votes and won 4 seats. This time as well, the BSP is contesting solo and expecting Dalits, Muslims and backward classes to vote in its favour. The Congress had initially said that it will contest elections in an alliance with BSP but its failure in sealing a pact forced Mayawati to go alone. Dalits constitute 22% and Muslims around 10% of state’s total voters of over 5 crore. It is expected that Mayawati could affect as many as 10 seats. To win adivasi and dalits voters back, the Congress had appointed Surendra Choudhary, a Dalit, as the secretary in charge of the state. If reports are to go by, if Congress manages to upset the BJP in the elections, Choudhary could be the Deputy CM.

Also Read: Can divided BJP and anti-incumbency hand Congress a ‘majority’?

Congress infighting

It is evident that Congress lacks powerful leadership in Madhya Pradesh and it is divided into 3 camps in this central state. The BJP used this as ammunition to question Congress over its “real leader” and also called it a marriage procession without a groom. Congress’ CM Digvijaya Singh, who had served as the CM of Madhya Pradesh for 10 years between 1993 and 2003, was synonymous with bad roads and lack of electricity. 15 years on, the BJP still managed to use this as propaganda to remind people of the time when the state was called ‘bimaru’ state. This time, the Congress leader was completely left in isolation by the leadership with many saying he was asked not to hold election rallies and speak to media. Interestingly, the same was attested by Digvijaya himself when his video saying ‘Congress loses whenever he campaign’ went viral on the internet. Also, Digvijaya’s rift with Jyotiraditya Scindia was out in media over the distribution of tickets.

Madhya Pradesh assembly election 2018

Pro-farmer policies

Although Congress targeted the BJP over the poor plight of farmers throughout the campaign, the BJP extensively highlighted Shivraj’s schemes, works, pro-farmer budget to woo the voters. The Mandsaur violence against farmers and protests across the state just ahead of the elections had definitely shaken the BJP. But the CM’s outreach to farmers within time and regular dialogue may have helped him earn their confidence.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan being blessed by an elderly woman at Laxmi Narayan Temple in Bhopal

Upper caste anger

The urban population and upper castes are considered loyal voters of the BJP. The latest decision of the Supreme Court on SC/ST Act was welcomed by the government staff and forwards. However, when the government passed a bill in Parliament to restore the old provisions of the law, the government servants irrespective of religion decided to come together under one umbrella and floated a political outfit Samanya Pichhada Evam Alpsankhyak Varg Samaj (SAPAKS). The outfit also said that state government’s decision to grant reservation in promotions was an unwelcome move. They held several rallies across the state demanding that discrimination based on caste end in government jobs.

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