Rolling Dice In MP

Congress hopes to wrest MP from BJP on SC/ST Amendment Act helping it dent in Satpuda region while BJP hopes lie on BSP’s better performance in Chambal and Vindhya

By Asit Manohar

After the reverberation of poll drum by the Election commission of India in five states — Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Mizoram — permutations and combinations are being calculated as the crucial Assembly elections inch closer.

After 15 years in power in Madhya Pradesh, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is facing a stiff challenge from the opposition. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has been at the helm of affairs for 13 out of the 15 years and political observers feel the election will boil down to his popularity. The state will head for polls on November 28 and the counting will happen on December 11. Elections are held only for 230 constituencies and one member is nominated.

The election in the BJP-ruled state comes barely six months before the all-important 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The elections thus may give us a look at the state’s mood heading into the general election. The politics in the ‘Heart of Hindustan’ has been largely binary between BJP and the Congress. However, Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) does yield significant influence in parts of the state. There are multiple smaller parties, including the newly founded SAPAKS party.

In 2013, BJP had won 165 seats while the Congress had bagged 58 seats. BSP had won four seats while independent candidates clinched three seats. BJP had vote share of 44.88 percent followed by Congress with 36.38 percent and BSP’s 6.29 percent.

The BSP and the SP picked up 6.29 percent and 1.20 percent of the votes respectively. GGP polled 5.38 percent of the votes. Independent candidates picked up a total of 1.90 percent of the votes across the state. None of the Above (NOTA) option, which was introduced ahead of the polls, was opted by 1.90 percent voters in the state.

Politically Madhya Pradesh is divided into various parts, which is mainly done on the basis of ecology, nature of the society, demographic concentration and close voting pattern. These regions are Chambal, Vindhya, Malwa, Central MP, Bundelkhand and Satpuda. So, it’s important to have a look at the status of various parties in poll fray in these regions.

CHAMBAL

Out of 230 assembly seats, Chambal comprises 34 assembly seats — almost 15 percent of the net assembly seats in the state. Districts falling in the region are Ashok Nagar, Bhind, Datia, Guna, Gwalior, Morena, Sheopur and Shivpuri — area which is considered highly influenced by the Scindia royal family. So, it becomes important how the Congress’ ‘CM in Waiting’ Jyotiraditya Scindia — Congress MP from Guna — performs for the Congress Party in this region. In 2013, BJP had won 20 seats in the region followed by Congress that won 12 seats while rest two seats went to BSP. The region has a high concentration of Scheduled Caste (SC) voters, especially in Datia, Gwalior, Morena and Bhind districts, usually considered the core component of BSP’s voter base. While BSP’s seat share is low, its vote share in constituencies it contests is as high as 6.42 percent in 2013 and was as high as 9.08 percent in 2008. That is enough to play a spoiler for either of its opponents.

According to an analysis by the Hindustan Times, BSP has played spoiler for the Congress higher number of times than for the BJP in the last three elections. The BSP and Congress fighting each other had denied Congress at least 22 seats in 2003, 41 seats in 2008 and 34 seats in 2013. Therefore, the northernmost region of Madhya Pradesh is expected to be the tensest battleground. Both BJP and Congress have their eyes on this region.

VINDHYA

Out of 230 assembly seats, Vindhya comprises 30 assembly seats — almost 14 percent of the net assembly seats in the state. Districts falling in the region are Anuppur, Rewa, Satna, Shahdol, Sidhi, Singrauli and Umaria. Importance of the region for both BJP and Congress can be understood with the fact that in 2013 when Modi wave was peaking fight in the easternmost region was closer than any other region. BJP won 16 seats and was closely followed by Congress with 12 seats. BSP won two seats.

The region, bordering Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh, has high concentration of Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) voters. So, once again both BJP and Congress are depending upon the fact how BSP candidates perform in this region because better performance by BSP is bad news for Congress in this region too.

MALWA

The region comprises 55 assembly seats — almost 25 percent of the net seats in the state. Districts falling under the region are Agar Malwa, Alirajpur, Dewas, Dhar, Indore, Jhabua, Mandsaur, Neemuch, Rajgarh, Ratlam, Shajapur and Ujjain. This region lies on the western flank of the state bordering Gujarat and Rajasthan and is considered BJP bastion. In 2013, BJP had swept the region by winning 49 out of the 55 seats here. Congress won five seats while an Independent candidate won one seat. Congress had performed much better in this region in 2008. It had won 25 seats, behind BJP’s 29. An Independent candidate had also managed to clinch a seat. The BJP won all seven seats in Ujjain and won eight out of the nine seats in Indore. As mentioned above, the region also includes Mandsaur, which is the epicenter of the agrarian crisis. The Congress is hoping to make gains here.

CENTRAL DISTRICTS

Central Districts consists of 32 assembly seats with Bhopal, Damoh, Raisen, Sagar, Sihor and Vidisha falling under this region. This is another region that BJP had swept in 2013. The saffron party had won 25 seats in the region. Congress won six seats while an Independent candidate won one seat. Among all seats in the capital city, Congress could win only the Bhopal Uttar constituency, which has high concentration of the Muslim voters. However, this time the BJP has given ticket to Fatima Rasool Sidiqui — daughter of veteran Congress leader Late Rasool Ahmed Sidiqui — who is expected to give tough fight to Arif Aqil, who has been winning this seats since 1992 for the Congress Party. BJP’s decision to pitch Fatima against Arif Aqil is indicative enough to understand how much importance both BJP and Congress are giving to each and every seat this time.

BUNDELKHAND

This region consists of 14 assembly seats and the districts falling under this belt are Chhatarpur, Panna, Tikamgarh and Niwari. It is adjacent to Chambal and along Uttar Pradesh. In 2013, BJP had won 10 seats here while Congress bagged the remaining four.

SOUTHERN DISTRICTS OR SATPUDA

This region consists of 65 assembly seats with districts Balaghat, Barwani, Betul, Burhanpur, Chhindwara, Dindori, Harda, Hoshangabad, Katni, Khandwa, Khargone, Jabalpur, Mandla, Narsinghpur and Seoni falling under its fold.

The region borders Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh. In the 15 districts that make up the region, BJP had won 45 out of the 65 seats here. Congress had finished a distant second with 19 seats. An Independent candidate also tasted success here. The region has a significant ST population. However, their spread is sparse. This is one of the regions where the Congress would be hopeful of making inroads into, especially after the SC/ST Amendment Act.