MP Exit Polls: If BJP Sweeps Election, It Will Largely Be Due to Three Factors

The main factor would be Shivraj's Ladli Behna Scheme, i.e., the cash-in-hand program for the 1.3 crore women of MP.

5 min read
Hindi Female

In the run-up to the Assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh, all the surveys gave more chances of victory to the Congress party, but the exit polls released on 30 December (though not all) have contradictory predictions.

At least two exit polls give an unprecedented majority to the BJP, led by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, giving the Kamal Nath-led Congress no chance to challenge any government formation. However, according to one survey of a popular Hindi news channel (and even C-Voter), the Congress will form the government. Others predict a neck-to-neck fight.

Now, which one is the most accurate?

The main factor would be Shivraj's Ladli Behna Scheme, i.e., the cash-in-hand program for the 1.3 crore women of MP.

While all this was happening and people in the heartland were discussing who would end up as the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, a small video clip was doing the rounds on social media.

Two senior editors of a news channel with the top boss of one of the outlets involved in the exit polls were heard discussing the data showing a clean sweep of the BJP. The editors said that it was unbelievable, and as the discussion progressed, even the top boss started sounding a little nervous.

Was it a marketing gimmick, a well scripted conversation, and a deliberate leak to claim credibility later on? “Exit polls are not a precise science and let us all take it with a pinch of salt”, an executive involved in one such survey in Madhya Pradesh told me. He himself fails to explain the variations in the exit poll predictions.

Nevertheless, let's work with what we have for now.


Largely Three Factors Helping the BJP

The BJP's supporters are promoting the exit polls predicting their clean sweep. Speculations have already begun over the probable chief minister in case the sweep actually happens on 3 December.

If the BJP has really outplayed the Congress, kind of like what Australia did to India in the World Cup final, it’s a combined mix of three factors.

The main factor would be the Ladli Behena Scheme, that is, the cash-in- hand scheme for the 1.3 crore women of Madhya Pradesh launched by Chouhan in March, eight months prior the polls. This was included in a spree of announcements by the CM just a few months before voting.

The welfare-related announcements included increased wages and allowances for almost 30 lakh junior-level employees, and an hiked pay for Anganwadi workers from Rs 10,000 to Rs 13,000. He also promised to double the honorarium of rozgar sahayaks (from Rs 9,000 to Rs 18,000), and triple the honorarium of leaders like the district panchayat president, vice president, district president, vice president, and the deputy sarpanch and panch.

He also guaranteed e-scooters to meritorious students, a burden of Rs 135 crore, along with laptops for 78,000 students at a cost Rs 196 crore.

The second factor would be the 15 rallies addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, almost 15 days before the election model code of conduct came into force.

Additionally, on different days in Bundelkhand, Chief Minister Chouhan was accompanied by Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma, Haryana CM Manohar Khattar, and also Uttarakhand CM Pushkar Dhami.

And thirdly, the introduction of Hindu temples introduced in the campaign at a later stage. As mentioned in a previous piece, the state government allocated Rs 358 crore to expand and establish four temples: Devilok in Salkanpur, Ramlok in Orchha, Ravidas Samark in Sagar, and Divya Vanvasi Lok in Chitrakoot.

The Ravidas temple in Sagar, the Bhumipujan of which was performed by Prime Minister Modi in August this year, is being constructed at a cost of Rs 100 crore.

To compete with the 101-foot-tall Hanuman statue constructed by Congress veteran Kamal Nath in Chhindwara 14 years ago, Shivraj in August this year announced a Rs 350 crore renovation project of an old Hanuman temple in Chhindwara.

Amidst all of this, the supremacy of the BJP's organisational skills over the Congress were never really in doubt.


What About Chief Minister Shivraj?

When PM Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah took over the campaign, sidelining the four-time chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the party tried to minimise the potential damage of anti-incumbency and the voter fatigue factor.

“Despite all this, they were not able to discount Shivraj completely, who ended up addressing 166 rallies in the state”, reminded a senior BJP functionary in Bhopal.

A senior BJP leader made an interesting remark, that, “Shivraj understands the Modi and Shah's domination but a party’s loss in the state would have been blamed on him."

Will he become the chief minister for the fifth time? Many party leaders in the saffron party are still tightlipped. “The people in Delhi will decide”, they say.

And what about the seven MPs, including the three cabinet colleagues of PM Modi, who were asked to contest the assembly polls? “In case the BJP sweeps MP, they may be asked to vacate their seats to contest the 2024 elections“, party sources said.

Madhya Pradesh has been one of the oldest Hindutva laboratories of the BJP. There is a strong team of committed RSS workers in the state. “And this team, of the Sangh, manages both the workers and the voters”, a BJP leader told me.

Winning Madhya Pradesh would mean a lot for the BJP before the general elections next year. ”It means that the party has its finger on the pulse of the Hindi heartland”, the leader added.


And What About the Congress Party?

And if the exit polls are correct, what of the Congress party?

Kamal Nath even tried to co-opt Hindutva with his so-called soft Hindutva approach. So, what could have wrong in that strategy?

And why was it not able to cash in on the fatigue factor or even the anti-incumbency issue, or the bitter infighting among BJP's state unit leaders? Is it the overconfidence of the party that is proving to be costly for them or the ticket distribution? Were there serious differences between Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh which could ultimately seal the party's fate? The answers to these questions will require some serious thinking.

If the exit polls showing the BJP sweeping MP elections are correct, the Congress will not only have to reorganise itself but revise its strategy for the Hindi heartland with respect to 2024.

And with respect to Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh, I can't really say what will happen to their political careers.

(The author is a senior journalist based in Madhya Pradesh. This is an opinion article and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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