MP Assembly Elections: Congress Keen on Building Cadre, Karnataka Model in Play

Can the Congress build on its organisational support to counter the BJP-RSS cadre strength in Madhya Pradesh?

6 min read
Hindi Female

In the next leg of Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, slated for later this year, the Congress has decided to take more than a line from its book of strategy followed in the Karnataka elections, where it ran a successful campaign against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and scored a massive win.

As senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Monday, 29 May met party chief Mallikarjun Kharge and top leaders from the state in Bhopal, he exuded confidence. “Karnataka election result will be repeated in Madhya Pradesh,” he said, adding that "the Congress will win 150 seats in the state".

Sources within the party have revealed that a "charge sheet" – which lists around 400 cases of economic irregularities, misgovernance, and mismanagement by the incumbent BJP government – has been prepared.

In Karnataka, the Congress was successful in cornering the BJP on matters of commission, corruption, price rise, and communalism. The party is looking to employ similar tactics in MP as well, the sources told The Quint.

Despite the two states being vastly different in several aspects, both shared a tumultuous regime shift in the recent past; and in both the states, the Congress government was toppled due to a defection of its MLAs to the BJP. 

Political experts say that MP and Karnataka share lot of similarities with respect to the Congress' approach to the Assembly elections in both the states.

Let's take a deeper look at these strategies.


How Are the Two States Similar?

The politics of Madhya Pradesh has been debated extensively since the Congress won the 2018 Assembly elections and was toppled within a year and half. Nearly two dozen of its MLAs, including the likes of Jyotiraditya Scindia, switched sides, forcing the Congress out of power and paving the way for the Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led BJP government to step in.

This time around, political experts and analysts say it is "a fight for pride" for former Chief Minister Kamal Nath. On the other hand, for the BJP, MP is a state they can't risk losing right before the general elections, which will take place merely five months after the Assembly elections.

Just as Karnataka witnessed BJP leaders and loyalists changing allegiances this time, in MP, too, BJP loyalists, long-standing party members, former MLAs, and even former MPs are switching sides.

One of the cases in point: Deepak Joshi, a three-time BJP MLA and son of former MP chief minister and Jan Sangh leader late Kailash Joshi joined the Congress earlier this month. 

Joshi wields a strong influence in the Malwa region, particularly in Dewas district. Having been elected three times as an MLA from the Bagli and Hatpipaliya Assembly constituencies in Dewas, Joshi's political dominance in the region is very strong. 

He remained a member of CM Chouhan's cabinet till 2018.

Besides Joshi, Deependra Laria, brother of BJP MLA Pradeep Laria from Sagar, and Deepak Saran, a close aide of agriculture minister Kamal Patel from Harda, among others, have also also joined the Congress.

Scams, Unemployment, and Unfulfilled Promises

Speaking to The Quint, a source in the Congress party said that the preparation to 'expose' the BJP's actions is almost complete, and that within a month, the party would take it to the public.

"We have prepared a list of all the scams that have happened during the BJP's rule, and with their nod, and we will be taking them to the public very soon."
The source

Party insiders say that before the MP Assembly elections, they will also initiate steps to reach the public through social media and door-to-door campaigns, providing "factual information" about these alleged scams, wrongdoings, and fraudulent activities, unearthed by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report, Lokayukta's actions, and other sources.

It is important to note that the 2022 state CAG report exposed a major scam in the nutrition programme run by the department controlled by CM Chouhan. The programme aimed to provide 'nutritious meals' to approximately 49 lakh registered children and women.

The investigation revealed that the documents showed transportation of thousands of kilograms of meals, valued in crores, by trucks. However, upon further examination, it was discovered that the vehicle numbers of the trucks mentioned in the departmental papers were actually motorcycles, autos, cars, and tankers.

The same report also disclosed that ration worth crores was distributed in the names of children who allegedly did not even attend school.


Speaking to The Quint, senior journalist-turned-political commentator Deepak Tiwari said that the fight is more between the public and the BJP than the Congress and the BJP – and that has given the Congress some edge.

"The charge sheets, scams, and other things will go on; they are all part of our great election festival, but the main issues that the Congress is focusing on are inflation, unemployment, and their cash-based schemes to provide Rs 1,500 to females as well as the gas cylinder at the cost of Rs 500 to every household. Presumably, the fight is between the Congress and the BJP, but it's more between the common man and the BJP's rule of the 18-20 years."
Deepak Tiwari

Congress spokesperson Abbas Hafeez said, "Apart from exposing the corruption and scams, relief from inflation is an important part of our agenda for the upcoming elections. We have already made an announcement regarding providing the gas cylinder and Rs 1,500 directly to women's accounts."

Meanwhile, senior journalists and political experts opine that the ruling party is fighting the election on multiple fronts, including caste-based mobilisation, religious cohesion, and appeasing men, women, and youth separately.

A political expert, on the condition of anonymity, said:

"In MP, caste-based politics have been both present and absent in a sense that it wasn't discussed in the public. Every leader would plan as per the caste dynamics of their constituencies, but it wasn't done publicly. This time around, with the BJP's intent to divide the voters either on religious lines or on the basis of caste dynamics, it might become more problematic for the Congress. In any case, it will be an election like never before."

The expert further said that the BJP and the RSS have an elaborate organisation, which relays their messages to almost every household – and that sort of organisational support is lacking in the Congress.


Strengthening of Cadre

Party sources told The Quint that the Congress has also been working towards strengthening its lower rung of leaders in a bid to counter the RSS-BJP's organisational strength on the ground. 

The official formation of booth and mandal committees was ratified during the National Convention of Congress held in February this year. 

Over the past nearly 10 months, the MP Congress has embarked on a new journey to revive itself from the lowest point.

"Dedicated efforts are being made to persuade and assist party supporters and workers in every village. The responsibility of rallying up the workers has been entrusted to Digvijaya Singh, the current Rajya Sabha MP from the Congress and former chief minister. Digvijaya has been conducting meetings with these committees, focusing on specific constituencies, for several months now."
Congress source

Commenting on the Congress' push to build up its ground base, Deepak Tiwari said:

"The Congress is working towards becoming a cadre-based party at least in Madhya Pradesh. The BJP-RSS duo have advanced a lot when it comes to organisational support at the remotest of levels in the state, and the Congress is aiming to counter this strength by rallying its troops at every village, block, and ward."

The Congress is well aware that its organisational members are not operating at full capacity, a fact acknowledged by Digvijaya Singh himself in numerous meetings. In one of the meetings in April 2023, Singh said that the "public is ready to vote for us, but we need people to get these votes cast."

"Just as the BJP and Sangh organisations operate with active workers in every village, we also have dedicated workers and supporters. However, for various reasons, many individuals are not actively engaged. By reinvigorating these units, we aim to expose the true face of the BJP and convey it to every individual and every household across the state. Our senior leaders are actively trying to get this done," said a Congress party insider.


Lessons From the Karnataka Story

According to senior journalists in the state, the election between the Congress and the BJP is expected to be very intense this time, as both the parties are putting in efforts to showcase their strength.

Deepak Tiwari's analysis of the 2023 MP election being the BJP vs the people and the Congress towing the people's line – just like it did in Karnataka – holds water.

Several of the anti-incumbency narratives, including the one accusing the BJP of being a commission government and the slogan of '40 percent sarkar' in Karnataka, originally came from the contractors association and were later picked by the Congress. 

If a similar outrage surfaces in MP, it might help the Congress garner ample support to defeat the BJP.

A senior journalist in the state, on the condition of anonymity, said:

"The Congress has a lot at its disposal to gain power in MP at the moment. The grip of the ruling party has loosened, and the public has been seeing the BJP government for the past 18 years, with Shivraj Singh Chouhan serving as chief minister for the fourth term. In such a scenario, there is no shortage of issues. Now, the key aspect will be to see how effectively the Congress can reach the public with its message." 

(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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