MP Assembly by-polls: Crucial for both BJP and dethroned Congress

On the surface, the upcoming bypolls look like a contest between Kamal Nath and Shivraj Singh Chouhan. Nath is asking voters to reject traitors and those who sold themselves
The upcoming Madhya Pradesh Assembly by-polls are crucial for both the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the dethroned Congress. The electorate in 19 districts is going to vote for the 28 seats going to the polls on November 3 (Assembly strength 230). These seats fell vacant due to the resignation of 25 Congress MLAs and the death of three.

The Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections in 2018 had ousted the BJP from power after its 15-year rule, but the Congress’s victory proved to be short-lived. The BJP returned to power in March this year through the defection of the Congress MLAs. They joined the BJP, following in the footsteps of their patron, Jyotiraditya Scindia.

The Congress is desperate to come back to power, but it will be an uphill task. The BJP needs only nine of the 28 seats to stay in power. The Congress, on the other hand, needs to win all of them. In the Assembly, 116 is the magic figure. The BJP has 107 MLAs, and the Congress 88.

There is another equation that can bring the Congress back to power: Winning 21 seats and bringing four independent, two Bahujan Samaj Party, and one Samajwadi Party legislators in its wigwam.

Gwalior-Chambal region

This region is important because of the 28 seats, 16 lie there. Scindia is fighting for his supremacy in this belt. When he was in the Congress, Gwalior-Chambal was the largest contributor to the party’s tally of 114 in 2018, when the Congress won 26 of the 34 seats there.

Political analyst Anil Jain said: “The region is highly feudal and in the recent past, the Dalits had been more assertive there than in the rest of Madhya Pradesh. That’s the reason the Bahujan Samaj Party also has a strong base in the area. There are nine seats reserved for the scheduled castes. These are not good signs for Scindia and his loyalists.”

The Gwalior-Chambal area is prominent in the Congress’s 52-point manifesto for the by-elections. The party has promised the formulation for land use in the interests of landless labourers by converting Chambal ravines and barren land into cultivable area. It has also promised to invite new industries and develop industrial corridors on both sides of the Chambal Expressway.
Nath vs Shivraj or Nath vs Scindia?

On the surface, it looks like a contest between Kamal Nath and Shivraj Singh Chouhan. The Congress is contesting this battle with Nath as its prominent face, but as one Congress leader points out, Nath may be a good organiser but he is not a man of the masses. “Honour and pride are the Congress’s main poll plank in the region.” That’s why Nath is asking voters to reject traitors and those who sold themselves, the Congress leader said.

If sources are to be believed, Scindia is not happy with the affairs in the BJP. His entry has complicated the power balance in the party. For his political relevance, it’s necessary that his candidates do well in the by-elections.

Senior journalist and political analyst Girija Shankar said: “I don’t think Scindia has any future in the BJP. The way he bargained while joining the saffron party has dented his credibility. No political party accepts such hard bargaining with an open heart. He joined the BJP because he was looking for a better opportunity. It had nothing to do with ideology. So the contradictions persist.”

“But the BJP will easily get the desired number of seats and Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan will comfortably run the government,” Girija Shankar said.

The road is not smooth for the 25 defectors, either. They are seeking re-election on the BJP ticket, the party they campaigned against less than two years ago. They are finding it difficult to explain to the voters why they “betrayed” their parent party. If political analysts are to be believed, the results may surprise many of them.

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