MP Elections: Who’ll Be King and Who’ll Play The Kingmaker?

Madhya Pradesh will go to polls on 28 November and the counting of votes will happen on 11 December.

Updated27 Nov 2018, 04:46 AM IST
Explainers
8 min read
Snapshot

The five-state elections ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls are being pegged as a litmus test for the Modi-led NDA government. Of the five states, Madhya Pradesh holds significance as the state has 29 Lok Sabha constituencies and has been Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) stronghold for the last 15 years.

The BJP came to power in the state in 2003 – in the first elections that were held after the bifurcation of the state – winning 173 of the 230 assembly seats and dethroning a decade-old Congress government.

Since then, the BJP has retained power in Madhya Pradesh with Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan at the helm of affairs for 13 years. However, Chouhan is now fighting a tide of anti-incumbency and corruption allegations.

So, as the state prepares to vote on 28 November, let’s take a look at who the key players for these elections are, what the mood of the people is in Madhya Pradesh, what the election issues are, and whether the third front be able to make a mark.

MP Elections: Who’ll Be King and Who’ll Play The Kingmaker?

  1. 1. Issues Dominating MP Polls

    ANTI-INCUMBENCY

    The contest in Madhya Pradesh has been fairly binary between the BJP and the Congress. And with 15 years of power resting at the hands of BJP, the anti-incumbency factor looms large. Though Chouhan has maintained his “pro-development”and “pro-farmer” image, significant fatigue against the government has crept in.

    Data from the past suggests that a large swing of voters is possible in the state, as happened earlier in 2003.

    The image depicts the number of seats won by the parties in the past assembly elections. 
    The image depicts the number of seats won by the parties in the past assembly elections. 
    (Photo: Erun Gour/The Quint)

    AGRARIAN CRISIS

    Madhya Pradesh is primarily an agrarian state, and agriculture employs nearly 70 percent of the workforce, according to the census. Thus, farm distress in the state is likely to play a major role in the upcoming polls given the agrarian crisis, which includes issues like loan waivers and better prices to the farmers for their produce.

    Moreover, according to a report in Hindustan Times, about one-tenth of farmer suicides in the past 16 years took place in a year (between February 2016 and 2017).

    Further, the 2017 Mandsaur farmer agitation, in which at least six protesters were killed in police firing, is still fresh in the minds of the voters.

    While the government launched the Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana, under which registered farmers were promised the difference between MSP and modal price, and gave compensation of Rs 1 crore to the families of deceased protesters, the issue continues to dominate MP politics.

    The Mandsaur tragedy claimed the lives of at least 6 protesters. 
    The Mandsaur tragedy claimed the lives of at least 6 protesters. 
    (Photo: PTI)

    EDUCATED UNEMPLOYMENT

    The issue of unemployment continues to plague the Chouhan government. The government has come under attack for lack of job creation and the increasing number of unemployed youths in the state.

    CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS: VYAPAM SCAM

    The opposition parties have been raking up the Vyapam scam, which pertains to forging answer sheets by bribing officials for competitive exams.

    The scam was unearthed in 2013, and since then, at least 25 whistle-blowers and witnesses have died. Though cases of malpractices were first reported in 1995, the opposition leaders have been alleging that corruption is “at its peak” in the state.

    In 2009, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan first set up a committee headed by the state joint director of medical education to look into the allegations. The committee submitted its report in 2011 to the government but the massive scale of corruption came to light only in 2013.

    Opposition leader and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh even recorded a statement in a special court in Bhopal against Chouhan, earlier in September this year. These allegations have dented the chief minister’s image.

    PRIVILEGED-CASTE VOTERS

    In March 2018, the Supreme Court of India amended the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities (POA) Act to avoid “false implications” under the Act. However, the Union Cabinet led by Prime Minister Modi brought new legislation in the Parliament, overturning the SC order.

    In September, there were widespread protests in various districts of Madhya Pradesh by privileged-caste outfits such as Samanya Pichra Alpsankhyak Kalyan Samaj (SAPAKS) and Rajput Karni Sena against the amendment done by the government.

    Though to pacify the protesters, Chouhan later said that he will ensure the act isn’t “misused” and no arrests are made without police investigation.

    However, Chouhan’s stance in favour of reservation drew the ire of outfits like SAPAKS, which slammed the chief minister for making statements like “Koi mai ka laal aarakshan khatam nahi kar sakta (No one can stop reservation)” alleging that it was done to garner votes.

    Reports suggest that there is anger among the privileged-caste voters, which might see them drift them away from the BJP’s fold.

    Expand
  2. 2. Who Are the Key Players?

    While the issues are wide-ranging in front of both the parties, let’s take a look at the key contenders for the 2018 Madhya Pradesh polls.

    SHIVRAJ SINGH CHOUHAN

    The incumbent and the longest-serving chief minister of Madhya Pradesh Shivraj Singh Chouhan will be fighting from his home turf Budhni.

    Though BJP won the 2003 assembly elections, Shivraj Singh Chouhan came to power in 2005 after Uma Bharti and Babulal Gaur stepped down from the post.

    If all goes well for the BJP, and Chouhan gets another term as the chief minister, then this will be his fourth term overall, and third full term, in the top office. Chouhan has garnered immense popularity among the people of MP and in the run-up to the 2013 elections, he announced a slew of schemes for all sections of society – women, children, and the young.

    The BJP is set to project its development indices and pro-farmer budget to boost its election campaign, and like Modi, Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s image has also been cast as a pro-development leader.

    Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan will be fighting from his home turf, Budhni.
    Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan will be fighting from his home turf, Budhni.
    (Photo: Erum Gour/The Quint)

    KAMAL NATH

    Kamal Nath is the Congress Madhya Pradesh state unit president and a nine-time member of the parliament from Chhindwara.

    Nath, who is an experienced political strategist, was made the MP state unit president in May 2018 to lead the party. Though it is being speculated that Nath and Guna lawmaker Jyotiraditya Scindia are the two probable chief ministerial faces, a Congress spokesperson told PTI that the two might not contest the assembly polls.

    Kamal Nath is the Congress Madhya Pradesh state unit president.
    Kamal Nath is the Congress Madhya Pradesh state unit president.
    (Photo: Erum Gour/The Quint)

    JYOTIRADITYA SCINDIA

    Jyotiraditya Scindia is a lawmaker from Guna and the current campaign committee chief for the Congress party in Madhya Pradesh. Scindia’s ability to connect with the youth – which makes up 44 percent of the voters – could help the party garner votes.

    Scindia belongs to the royal family and carries with him the legacy of his father, Madhavrao Scindia.

    Jyotiraditya Scindia is a lawmaker from Guna.
    Jyotiraditya Scindia is a lawmaker from Guna.
    (Photo: Erum Gour/The Quint)
    Expand
  3. 3. Will the Third Front Make a Difference?

    Other than the BJP and the Congress, the state has only seen two other governments – Janata Party and Samyukta Vidhayak Dal – for a very brief period.

    Though, the BJP (currently) has the lion’s share in the assembly, the third front which includes parties like the BSP, SAPAKS could make a difference.

    BAHUJAN SAMAJ PARTY (BSP)

    If BSP and Congress had continued with their alliance, it could have added weight to Congress’ chances.

    According to an analysis by Hindustan Times, BSP has played spoiler for both the BJP and the Congress in the past three assembly elections. However, the infighting has taken away more from the Congress than from the BJP. According to this report, BSP denied 22 seats to Congress in 2003, 41 seats in 2008 and 34 seats in 2013.

    Further, the 34 seats in the Chambal region, which has a majority Scheduled-Caste (SC) population, could have benefited Congress if an alliance between BSP and Congress had gone through.

    However, BSP Chief Mayawati has categorically denied an alliance with the Congress in MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.

    Reportedly, BSP will contest from all 230 seats.

    SAPAKS

    Earlier in October, the Samanya Pichra Alpsankhyak Kalyan Samaj (SAPAKS) an organisation protesting against the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities (POA) Act announced the formation of SAPAKS Samaj Party.

    SAPAKS is a two-year-old organisation which was formed to fight reservation in government jobs and promotion around the time when Shivraj Singh Chouhan had said that no one can stop reservation.

    SAPAK will be contesting from all 230 assembly seats.

    SAMAJWADI PARTY (SP)

    The Samajwadi Party (SP) has contested from a large number of seats in the past assembly elections, but hasn’t been very successful.

    In 2003, SP contested from 161 seats and won seven. The number went down to one seat in 2008 while the number of seats contested from went up to 187. Finally, SP went off the charts in 2013 with zero seats.

    SP has released a list of 10 candidates so far and is expected to contest from 30 seats.

    According to reports, SP, BSP and GGP are likely to get in a pre-poll alliance for the MP elections.

    GONDWANA GANATANTRA PARTY (GGP)

    The party’s core supporters have been tribals who constitute 21 percent of the state bank, though the party’s performance hasn’t been impressive in the previous polls.

    In 2013 and 2008, the party didn’t win a single seat and their vote share fell from 2 percent in 2003 to 1 percent in the 2013.

    JAI ADIVASI YUVA SHAKTI (JAYS)

    JAYS is a tribal outfit which has now entered into an arrangement with the Congress. The first list of candidates that was released by the grand old party gave a ticket to the founder of JAYS from the Manawar constituency.

    The party is led by Hiralal Alawa, a doctor from AIIMS, who started the party in 2012 as a result of dissatisfaction among the tribals with the government.

    There are 47 seats reserved for the Scheduled Tribes in Madhya Pradesh that according to the party, could impact the outcome.

    Expand
  4. 4. Voting Pattern

    MP Elections: Who’ll Be King and Who’ll Play The Kingmaker?
    (Photo: Erun Gour/The Quint)

    In 2003, riding the anti-incumbency wave, the BJP clinched 173 seats while the Congress was left with a meagre 38-seat tally. In the same year, the party’s vote share was 42.50 percent while the Congress’ vote share was 31.61 percent. BSP won 2 seats and their vote share was 7.26 percent.

    In 2008, the BJP won 143 seats, the Congress was at 71. But the vote share of the party fell from 42.50 percent in 2003 to 37.64 percent, while Congress’ vote share stood at 32.39 percent.

    And as per the current tally, BJP has 165 seats, Congress stands at 58, and BSP has four. The vote share of the saffron party rose from a 37.64 percent to 44.88 percent while Congress’ vote share is at 36.38 percent.

    The opinion polls have predicted a tough battle between the Congress and the BJP, but the final result will be known on 11 December.

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    The Quint is now available on Telegram & WhatsApp too, Click here to join.

    Expand

Issues Dominating MP Polls

ANTI-INCUMBENCY

The contest in Madhya Pradesh has been fairly binary between the BJP and the Congress. And with 15 years of power resting at the hands of BJP, the anti-incumbency factor looms large. Though Chouhan has maintained his “pro-development”and “pro-farmer” image, significant fatigue against the government has crept in.

Data from the past suggests that a large swing of voters is possible in the state, as happened earlier in 2003.

The image depicts the number of seats won by the parties in the past assembly elections. 
The image depicts the number of seats won by the parties in the past assembly elections. 
(Photo: Erun Gour/The Quint)

AGRARIAN CRISIS

Madhya Pradesh is primarily an agrarian state, and agriculture employs nearly 70 percent of the workforce, according to the census. Thus, farm distress in the state is likely to play a major role in the upcoming polls given the agrarian crisis, which includes issues like loan waivers and better prices to the farmers for their produce.

Moreover, according to a report in Hindustan Times, about one-tenth of farmer suicides in the past 16 years took place in a year (between February 2016 and 2017).

Further, the 2017 Mandsaur farmer agitation, in which at least six protesters were killed in police firing, is still fresh in the minds of the voters.

While the government launched the Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana, under which registered farmers were promised the difference between MSP and modal price, and gave compensation of Rs 1 crore to the families of deceased protesters, the issue continues to dominate MP politics.

The Mandsaur tragedy claimed the lives of at least 6 protesters. 
The Mandsaur tragedy claimed the lives of at least 6 protesters. 
(Photo: PTI)

EDUCATED UNEMPLOYMENT

The issue of unemployment continues to plague the Chouhan government. The government has come under attack for lack of job creation and the increasing number of unemployed youths in the state.

CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS: VYAPAM SCAM

The opposition parties have been raking up the Vyapam scam, which pertains to forging answer sheets by bribing officials for competitive exams.

The scam was unearthed in 2013, and since then, at least 25 whistle-blowers and witnesses have died. Though cases of malpractices were first reported in 1995, the opposition leaders have been alleging that corruption is “at its peak” in the state.

In 2009, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan first set up a committee headed by the state joint director of medical education to look into the allegations. The committee submitted its report in 2011 to the government but the massive scale of corruption came to light only in 2013.

Opposition leader and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh even recorded a statement in a special court in Bhopal against Chouhan, earlier in September this year. These allegations have dented the chief minister’s image.

PRIVILEGED-CASTE VOTERS

In March 2018, the Supreme Court of India amended the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities (POA) Act to avoid “false implications” under the Act. However, the Union Cabinet led by Prime Minister Modi brought new legislation in the Parliament, overturning the SC order.

In September, there were widespread protests in various districts of Madhya Pradesh by privileged-caste outfits such as Samanya Pichra Alpsankhyak Kalyan Samaj (SAPAKS) and Rajput Karni Sena against the amendment done by the government.

Though to pacify the protesters, Chouhan later said that he will ensure the act isn’t “misused” and no arrests are made without police investigation.

However, Chouhan’s stance in favour of reservation drew the ire of outfits like SAPAKS, which slammed the chief minister for making statements like “Koi mai ka laal aarakshan khatam nahi kar sakta (No one can stop reservation)” alleging that it was done to garner votes.

Reports suggest that there is anger among the privileged-caste voters, which might see them drift them away from the BJP’s fold.

Who Are the Key Players?

While the issues are wide-ranging in front of both the parties, let’s take a look at the key contenders for the 2018 Madhya Pradesh polls.

SHIVRAJ SINGH CHOUHAN

The incumbent and the longest-serving chief minister of Madhya Pradesh Shivraj Singh Chouhan will be fighting from his home turf Budhni.

Though BJP won the 2003 assembly elections, Shivraj Singh Chouhan came to power in 2005 after Uma Bharti and Babulal Gaur stepped down from the post.

If all goes well for the BJP, and Chouhan gets another term as the chief minister, then this will be his fourth term overall, and third full term, in the top office. Chouhan has garnered immense popularity among the people of MP and in the run-up to the 2013 elections, he announced a slew of schemes for all sections of society – women, children, and the young.

The BJP is set to project its development indices and pro-farmer budget to boost its election campaign, and like Modi, Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s image has also been cast as a pro-development leader.

Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan will be fighting from his home turf, Budhni.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan will be fighting from his home turf, Budhni.
(Photo: Erum Gour/The Quint)

KAMAL NATH

Kamal Nath is the Congress Madhya Pradesh state unit president and a nine-time member of the parliament from Chhindwara.

Nath, who is an experienced political strategist, was made the MP state unit president in May 2018 to lead the party. Though it is being speculated that Nath and Guna lawmaker Jyotiraditya Scindia are the two probable chief ministerial faces, a Congress spokesperson told PTI that the two might not contest the assembly polls.

Kamal Nath is the Congress Madhya Pradesh state unit president.
Kamal Nath is the Congress Madhya Pradesh state unit president.
(Photo: Erum Gour/The Quint)

JYOTIRADITYA SCINDIA

Jyotiraditya Scindia is a lawmaker from Guna and the current campaign committee chief for the Congress party in Madhya Pradesh. Scindia’s ability to connect with the youth – which makes up 44 percent of the voters – could help the party garner votes.

Scindia belongs to the royal family and carries with him the legacy of his father, Madhavrao Scindia.

Jyotiraditya Scindia is a lawmaker from Guna.
Jyotiraditya Scindia is a lawmaker from Guna.
(Photo: Erum Gour/The Quint)

Will the Third Front Make a Difference?

Other than the BJP and the Congress, the state has only seen two other governments – Janata Party and Samyukta Vidhayak Dal – for a very brief period.

Though, the BJP (currently) has the lion’s share in the assembly, the third front which includes parties like the BSP, SAPAKS could make a difference.

BAHUJAN SAMAJ PARTY (BSP)

If BSP and Congress had continued with their alliance, it could have added weight to Congress’ chances.

According to an analysis by Hindustan Times, BSP has played spoiler for both the BJP and the Congress in the past three assembly elections. However, the infighting has taken away more from the Congress than from the BJP. According to this report, BSP denied 22 seats to Congress in 2003, 41 seats in 2008 and 34 seats in 2013.

Further, the 34 seats in the Chambal region, which has a majority Scheduled-Caste (SC) population, could have benefited Congress if an alliance between BSP and Congress had gone through.

However, BSP Chief Mayawati has categorically denied an alliance with the Congress in MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.

Reportedly, BSP will contest from all 230 seats.

SAPAKS

Earlier in October, the Samanya Pichra Alpsankhyak Kalyan Samaj (SAPAKS) an organisation protesting against the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities (POA) Act announced the formation of SAPAKS Samaj Party.

SAPAKS is a two-year-old organisation which was formed to fight reservation in government jobs and promotion around the time when Shivraj Singh Chouhan had said that no one can stop reservation.

SAPAK will be contesting from all 230 assembly seats.

SAMAJWADI PARTY (SP)

The Samajwadi Party (SP) has contested from a large number of seats in the past assembly elections, but hasn’t been very successful.

In 2003, SP contested from 161 seats and won seven. The number went down to one seat in 2008 while the number of seats contested from went up to 187. Finally, SP went off the charts in 2013 with zero seats.

SP has released a list of 10 candidates so far and is expected to contest from 30 seats.

According to reports, SP, BSP and GGP are likely to get in a pre-poll alliance for the MP elections.

GONDWANA GANATANTRA PARTY (GGP)

The party’s core supporters have been tribals who constitute 21 percent of the state bank, though the party’s performance hasn’t been impressive in the previous polls.

In 2013 and 2008, the party didn’t win a single seat and their vote share fell from 2 percent in 2003 to 1 percent in the 2013.

JAI ADIVASI YUVA SHAKTI (JAYS)

JAYS is a tribal outfit which has now entered into an arrangement with the Congress. The first list of candidates that was released by the grand old party gave a ticket to the founder of JAYS from the Manawar constituency.

The party is led by Hiralal Alawa, a doctor from AIIMS, who started the party in 2012 as a result of dissatisfaction among the tribals with the government.

There are 47 seats reserved for the Scheduled Tribes in Madhya Pradesh that according to the party, could impact the outcome.

Voting Pattern

MP Elections: Who’ll Be King and Who’ll Play The Kingmaker?
(Photo: Erun Gour/The Quint)

In 2003, riding the anti-incumbency wave, the BJP clinched 173 seats while the Congress was left with a meagre 38-seat tally. In the same year, the party’s vote share was 42.50 percent while the Congress’ vote share was 31.61 percent. BSP won 2 seats and their vote share was 7.26 percent.

In 2008, the BJP won 143 seats, the Congress was at 71. But the vote share of the party fell from 42.50 percent in 2003 to 37.64 percent, while Congress’ vote share stood at 32.39 percent.

And as per the current tally, BJP has 165 seats, Congress stands at 58, and BSP has four. The vote share of the saffron party rose from a 37.64 percent to 44.88 percent while Congress’ vote share is at 36.38 percent.

The opinion polls have predicted a tough battle between the Congress and the BJP, but the final result will be known on 11 December.

We'll get through this! Meanwhile, here's all you need to know about the Coronavirus outbreak to keep yourself safe, informed, and updated.

The Quint is now available on Telegram & WhatsApp too, Click here to join.

Published: 05 Nov 2018, 01:58 PM IST

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