Three Cabinet ministers, four members of Parliament, and a national general secretary made it to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP's) second list of 39 candidates for the Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections, in what is seemingly a move to counter the anti-incumbency against the Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan government.
Union Ministers Narendra Singh Tomar, Prahlad Patel, and Faggan Singh Kulaste are among the high-profile leaders set to contest the upcoming polls along with MPs Rakesh Singh, Ganesh Singh, Reeti Pathak, and Uday Pratap Singh as well as national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya.
Even as political analysts claim that this is an attempt to kill many birds with one stone, including anti-incumbency, internal factionalism, and optimisation of each candidate's winning chances, sources within the BJP said that the announcement has come as a shock to Chouhan who has been sidelined in the run-up to the elections.
They said that the party is concerned about the "political weariness" surrounding Chouhan who, notably, has not been named as the face for the chief minister's post.
It's not an unfounded observation then that during his address in Madhya Pradesh on Monday, 25 September, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke about the Women's Reservation Bill, accused the Congress of destroying the state, and warned women and first-time voters of not falling for the Congress' promises, among others. But not once did PM Modi mention the incumbent chief minister and his ambitious 'Ladli Behna Yojana'.
Is the Madhya Pradesh CM Post Up for Grabs?
A senior party leader told The Quint that the heavyweights have been called in to portray the fact that the chief ministerial berth is wide open for others – a strategic move to counter the anti-incumbency against Chouhan.
Expressing surprise that he had received a ticket to contest the polls, the BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya said on Monday, "I was told that I will be assigned some work and that... I would have to do it. When the tickets were declared, I too was surprised. I am the party's soldier. I will do whatever they say."
"Central leaders are worried about the strong anti-incumbency against Shivraj ji. He also knows this. We have fielded other senior leaders now, so that the public knows that there are other names as well for the next chief minister. Our surveys have shown that the public's boredom is directed at the leadership – and not at the party."BJP sources told The Quint
Echoing the same, political commentator Dinesh Gupta added that the party might field even more heavyweights to nullify the anti-incumbency factor.
"The BJP has shown its fear and panic in an attempt to counter the anti-incumbency against CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan. Second, the BJP is micromanaging its winning probability in every seat. That's another strong reason why they have fielded so many MPs – and might field a few more."Political Commentator Dinesh Gupta
Has BJP Made It Easy for Congress With Its Second List?
The BJP has fielded Narendra Singh Tomar, who hails from Morena, to contest from the Dimani seat of Morena
Satna MP Ganesh Singh to contest from Satna
Union Minister Faggan Singh Kulaste to contest from Mandla's Niwas
Jabalpur MP Rakesh Singh to contest from Jabalpur Paschim Assembly seat
Prahlad Patel has been given the ticket in place of his brother Jalam Singh Patel, whose name was announced in the first list, to contest from Narsinghpur
Reeti Pathak has been fielded from Sidhi
Uday Pratap Singh will contest from Gadarwara
Kailash Vijayvargiya will contest from Indore-1 Assembly seat
While the Congress, led by Kamal Nath, has been putting up a tough fight against the BJP on various fronts, including on the Hindutva narrative and freebies issue, sources within the party expressed surprise at the BJP fielding seven MPs for state elections.
"We are ahead... the public is bored and angry with CM Chouhan, and we are banking on it. However, this second list will surely make the battle a little tough for us in the sense that we can't let down the guards even for a minute now. They have fielded senior leaders such as Narendra Singh Tomar, Prahlad Patel, and even Kailash Vijayvargiya, and we will now have to strategically ensure that the anti-incumbency factor does not get watered down".Congress sources told The Quint
On Tuesday, Kamal Nath took to X (formerly Twitter) to slam BJP’s second list.
In a post, he said, “The candidates’ list of the BJP, which claims to have crores of party workers, is surely a stamp on the party’s internal defeat and refutes the claims of development during the eighteen-and-a-half years of BJP government and more than 15 years of Shivraj’s (Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan) rule.”
Senior political journalists opine that the BJP is going into the elections with everything that it has got, even with some extra firepower. But how much of that firepower will actually make a difference is a little doubtful.
"They have fielded the central ministers, the MPs with an objective to water down the anti-incumbency and ensure that no seat is left to probability, but it also has a downside. If the public gets the perception that the BJP is worried about its chances, they are hanging onto straws and that's why they have fielded central leaders, it will backfire on the BJP across the state. The Congress will be devising the next steps to ensure that it backfires on the BJP."Senior journalist in MP
In the list that created a stir in the state's political circles, the BJP has also attempted to ensure a diverse caste representation.
While Reeti Pathak hails from the Brahmin community, a deciding factor in the Vindhya region, Narendra Singh Tomar, Rakesh Singh, and Uday Pratap Singh belong to the Rajput community
Faggan Singh Kulaste represents the tribal community; Prahlad Patel (Lodhi) and Ganesh Singh (Kurmi) are from Other Backward Classes (OBCs)
Notably, Reeti Pathak is replacing the controversial BJP MLA Kedarnath Shukla from the Brahmin community, whose aide was caught on camera urinating on a tribal man a few months ago.