MP Assembly Polls: Can BJP Pull Off an Election With Delhi as Decision Maker?

BJP leaders are hesitant about Shivraj Singh Chouhan as CM candidate due to past losses, sources say.

Hindi Female

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), under the leadership of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, has devised a multi-pronged action plan to connect with voters ahead of the Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections – from setting up welfare boards for over a dozen castes to cash-based schemes for women, and incentive-based skill development schemes for the youth.

But what ails the grand project is unfulfilled promises, strong anti-incumbency, infighting, and the shift of power from MP to Delhi. Experts say that the road to getting re-elected is not without thorns for the BJP.

In this article, we delve into the following questions:

  1. What is the BJP's action plan?

  2. Why is the party pushing for a caste-centered election?

  3. What ails its grand plan?


BJP's Action Plan

The BJP has adopted new and prudent ways to appease different sections of voters in MP. 

On multiple occasions over the last two months, Chouhan has announced the formation of separate welfare boards, batting to get the caste dynamics of the state in play.

In April 2023, the chief minister announced to set up a welfare board for the major sub-castes of the scheduled caste (SC) communities in the state. 

Besides that, he announced the formation of around 15 welfare boards for different communities, including Kori, Jatav, Rajak, Telghani, and even Brahmins, adding that the chairperson of the board would be given the status of a minister.

The move comes in light of the BJP losing a major chunk of its tribal and SC vote bank in the 2018 elections. 

In 2013, the BJP won 31 out of the 47 ST seats in the state. However, five years later, in the 2018 state elections, the BJP's tally dropped to 16 seats. In the same elections, it won 18 out of 35 SC seats.

Speaking to The Quint, a senior party leader said that the BJP is following its principle of 'Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas' and that the recent announcements are a part of that campaign. 

"We have always practised inclusive development across the board. We are continuing with our principles. Be it women, youth, elderly, or anyone, our government has always worked for the betterment of all the sections."
BJP leader

However, senior journalist and political commentator Arun Dixit opined that the BJP is trying its best to counter the anti-incumbency factor and its unfulfilled promises. 

"If, after 18 years of being in power, the party is pushing for a caste-based election and is evidently doing so by setting up around 15-16 caste-specific welfare boards, it shows that the party is struggling to put up face with the voters."
Arun Dixit

Schemes Focused on Women, Elderly, and SC-ST

The BJP has specifically directed its attention towards the tribal and SC communities by organising various events in the past year to gain favour with these voters. These efforts include the announcement of public holidays, the construction of statues, and the introduction of scholarships named after prominent figures from these communities for their students.

Catering to the SC community, the BJP government, during the Ravidas Mahakumbh event held in Sagar district in February 2023 to commemorate Saint Ravidas, pledged to construct a temple dedicated to the 15th century saint at a cost of Rs 100 crore.

Over the past two months, the Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led government has also unveiled multiple schemes targeting different sections of the electorate, including women, youth, and the elderly.

For women, under the flagship scheme 'Ladli Behna Yojana', the chief minister announced Rs 1,000 per month to all the eligible women of the state. For the youth, they promised 1 lakh jobs. 

To sway around 20 lakh elderly voters, Chouhan recently flagged off the first batch of devotees to Allahabad under the Mukhyamantri Teerth Darshan Yojana in May 2023. The government claimed that since its inception, the scheme has benefitted around 8 lakh elders in the state.

However, a political analyst, who wished to remain anonymous, said that the Congress has countered the BJP with a better proposition after they announced to give domestic cylinders at Rs 500 – and pay Rs 1,500 to eligible women in the state.

"The BJP has a lot of challenges ahead. They have to show what they have done in 18 years. There is a strong anti-incumbency against the current chief minister. Although they have launched a few attractive schemes, like Ladli Behna Yojana, the Congress has countered them with better offers, including increasing the amount from Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,500 given to women... even the subsidy on gas cylinders and electricity will surely help the party."
Political commentator

A Shift in Power Centre Hampering BJP's Efforts?

One significant challenge that the BJP is facing in the run-up to the Assembly elections 2023 is the centralisation of power from Madhya Pradesh to Delhi.

According to senior journalists and political commentators, the state BJP unit has been deprived of its authority to make decisions. As a result, even though they may have a well-thought-out plan, they are unable to put it into action.

A senior journalist, requesting anonymity, said:

"All the decisions now lie with the central leaders, predominantly Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah – and not with the state unit. This has been a major challenge for the BJP in Madhya Pradesh. There are four hardcore RSS leaders who have been drafted into the state unit, and hence, the internal scuffle has heightened."

Although while talking to The Quint, BJP spokesperson Rajneesh Agarwal dismissed the debate around infighting and non-cooperation among the senior leaders, experts believe that the top leadership is in dismay.

"We are working as one entity as we have always been a collective front. We have our workers motivated and activated at the booth level. They are going to every door to tell people about the welfare schemes and the nine years of the Modi government. We are also connecting with the beneficiaries of various central and state government schemes – both physically and digitally, and asking them to support us. There is no disturbance in our leadership. We don't operate that way."
Rajneesh Agarwal

However, infighting in the BJP has been the talk of the town for quite some time now. 

Senior leaders have raised their reservations about contesting the elections with Chouhan as the chief ministerial candidate as the party lost the previous election under his leadership, said sources.

"There is some distrust among the senior state leaders as we lost the 2018 Assembly elections. This has been going around for quite some time now. But things are being managed and we are fighting the elections as one team."
A senior BJP functionary

Dixit conceded, saying, "There are too many smaller power centres now with no single man at the top to control and command things. With all the decisions being made in Delhi, the state is sort of running without a proper person in charge, and hence, everybody is playing their hands."

Earlier, senior BJP leaders like Deepak Joshi, former cabinet minister and son of Jansangh leader Kailash Joshi, jumped over to Congress, accusing the BJP of neglecting the leaders and humiliating them. 

Another senior journalist – from the Vindhya region of the state – said that senior leaders have been ignored, and the current state BJP president VD Sharma favouring his mates from his student union days has troubled many leaders.

He said:

"There are around five leaders playing power games in Madhya Pradesh. One of them is state BJP president VD Sharma. It's a regular phenomenon to have a softer side for those you know, but with Sharma following the same has pushed many senior leaders away from the party. He implemented the under-40 rule, pushing the younger generations to power at the district level, and hence, the senior leaders felt ignored. That is what is coming back to haunt the BJP before the elections."

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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