November 05, 2013

SHIV-RAJ IN MP? - PART I


MADHYA PRADESH 2013: CONGRESS - A DIVIDED HOUSE


Dubbed as the 'Heart' of Incredible India, the mega state of Madhya Pradesh will go to the polls on 25th November later this year. Like in neighboring Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, what makes the elections here extremely important, especially ahead of the big 2014 General elections is that it will witness a direct fight between the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress. While the saffron brigade has been in power in the state for the last decade, the INC is heading a coalition regime at the Center for two consecutive terms. With BJP's Prime Ministerial nominee Narendra Modi and Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi addressing massive rallies here, it can be concluded that the 2013 state elections are been increasingly seen as the semi final just ahead of the Lok Sabha polls which is scheduled for next May. The pundits have given a clear edge to the incumbent CM, predicting that the party may replicate here the success that it saw in Gujarat riding on the popularity of Shivraj Singh Chauhan. However, by putting the dynamic and young Jyotiraditya Scindia in charge of its campaign in the state, the Congress is fighting back and may well pull off the biggest upset of 2013.

While the BJP claims that the development carried by the incumbent government will ensure its victory, what is making life easier for Chauhan is the lack of unity in the Congress camp. Although the party high command - the highest authority in the party has deputed Jyotiraditya Scindia - the son of the former Union Minister and Scindia scion Madhavrao to lead its battle, the feud amongst the prominent leaders of the state has not yet ended and could jeopardize the process of ticket distribution. Ahead of the polls, the Congress has split into two distinct groups, with each trying to out do the other, often resulting in the washing of dirty linen in public. Scindia is said to have teamed up with Union Minister Kamal Nath who is coordinating the campaign. On the other hand, Digvijay Singh - the Rakhi Sawant of Indian politics, who is serving a self imposed 10 year exile from the state after his rout at the hands of Uma Bharati in 2003 is also flexing his muscles, using state party President Kantilal Bhuria and the Leader of Opposition in the incumbent assembly - Ajay Singh as his proxies.

The fighting has become so bitter that it was reported that Diggi Raja was not allowed to attend a press conference being addressed by Scindia. Kantilal Bhuria is said to have had an audience with Sonia Gandhi after his advise over the selection of candidates in his home town of Jhabua was completely ignored. Die hard fans of the INC will point out that INC has never has faced similar situations in the past in other states. In fact, on the eve of the Uttarkhand polls held last year, the party was divided into over five groups, each headed by a Chief Ministerial hopeful. Considering the allegations of corruption against several BJP leaders, most notably the former CM Pokriyal, the Congress messed up the whole thing big time and managed to win just by a single seat in an election which it was speculated to sweep. However the scenario in MP is drastically different. The BJP here is in solid form and reports on the ground indicate that the charisma of Chauhan who was once being touted as the party's contender for the top job in 2014 is working in its favor.

Meanwhile the decision to appoint Scindia junior at the helm of affairs by passing veterans like Bhuria and long time MLA Ajay Singh seems to be a calculated risk. Jyotiraditya's father Madhavrao Scindia who died in a tragic air incident in 2001 was one of the most influential political leader from 1981 until his death besides being the titular chief of the erstwhile princely state of Gwalior. Besides his father's legacy, the party is hoping that his image as a youth leader will be a hit amongst the over 50 lakh young voters. With unemployment remaining high and MP still trailing behind in key areas like development, the youth vote might be the game changer for the Congress. The first list of candidates released last week includes a mix of sitting MLAs, prominent leaders from Youth Congress and finally, in continuation of the party's tradition, kin of several party veterans. Prominent candidates include Ajay Singh (Churat), his deputy in the state legislature Bisahulal Singh (Annupur), Satyadev Katare (Ater), Narayan Tripathi (Maihar), Ravi Joshi (Khargone), Bala Bachchan (Rajpur) and Surajbhan Singh Solanki (Harsud). Digvijay's son Jai Vardhan has filed his papers from Raghogarh without waiting for the Congress to name him. The party is also likely to benefit from large number of BJP rebels who are expected to hurt the saffron outfit's chances.

For more on the Madhya Pradesh Elections 2013, click here (Link)