November 11, 2013

SHIV-RAJ IN MP? - PART IV


MADHYA PRADESH 2013: THE ISSUES THAT MATTER



DEVELOPMENT

Nobody can deny the fact that Madhya Pradesh, a state that has lagged behind others in terms of development has made some worth while progress under the leadership of Shivraj Singh Chauhan in the last eight years. When he ascended the chair way back in late 2005, he was not a well known face in local politics. Besides, he was facing the wrath of his bete noire Uma Bharati - the firebrand leader who, after being sidelined for openly taking on the top leadership, launched her own outfit. In a bid to counter the challenges facing him and to bolster his personal image, Chauhan launched two populist schemes - free TV sets and rice at one rupee per kilo which were mass hits. Then came the numerous welfare schemes, many of which got praises even from his harshest critics. These include the Ladli Lakshmi Scheme, the state government buys NSC worth Rs 30,000 over a period of five years after the birth of a girl child. While the parents get some fixed amount at the end of a certain time periods, they girl may get up to Rs 1 lakh after she turns 21 years old. The Kanyadhan Yojna gives Rs 7,500 to poor families during their daughter's wedding whereas the Janani Suraksha Yojna provides all assistance to pregnant mothers till child birth. Data available shows that the implementation of these schemes have benefited thousands of people so far.

Traditionally classified as a BIMARU state, there is no doubt that Madhya Pradesh has improved under the tenure of Chauhan. During the days of Digvijay Singh, the conditions of the roads in several regions of MP was pathetic to say the least. On the contrary, the incumbent CM has added over 90,000 km of roads in the last eight years - one of his biggest USPs. Of course, there is a lot of scope for improvement even now. Another issue on which he has delivered is power generation. Ever since he took over, the state's power production has grown by 10,000 MW. While water supply remains a concern in several parts, the situation has improved to some extent. Agriculture has received an impetus, especially in the Vindhya region with the construction of two key projects - Banasagar and Gulab Sagar. Wheat production has grown manifolds, and MP is today, the third highest producer of this crop, trailing Punjab and Haryana. At the same time, several IT companies have decided to open their branches in an IT Park in Indore after the CM promised to offer them certain concessions besides reducing bureaucratic hassles. Though several scandals have rocked his government at regular intervals, Shivraj is perceived by the electorate as a non-corrupt leader who has delivered as far as bijli, sadak aur paani is concerned.


ANTI-INCUMBENCY

While the BJP believes that it will comfortably cross the 116 mark for the third time, history seems to suggest otherwise. Ever since the state was placed under President's Rule in 1993, there has been a change in regime after every ten years in Bhopal. Diggi Raja occupied the CM's chair between 1993 to 2003 and the saffron party has ruled since then. As such, it will hardly be surprising if the masses give the Congress another shot, especially after it projected a new and a more credible face. Besides, for all the talks of development that has taken place here under Chauhan, the results are still only satisfactory. While road network has expanded, several villages continue to be inaccessible; water scarcity continues to be a major problem especially in the rural hinterland; the murder of environmental activist Shehla Masood and the failure to check the illegal activities of the sand mafia have put a big question mark on the intentions of the administration. Opinion polls suggest that the general conception amongst the farmers is that the incumbent government could have done a lot more to help them. In spite of all the schemes launched to provide women empowerment, Madhya Pradesh has recorded the highest cases of rapes against women. This is certainly a big embarrassment for Shivraj.

Another problem for the ruling party is that names of several of its ministers have figured either in corruption scandals or courted controversies of some sort. The CM's wife Sadhna Singh has been accused by the Opposition of buying four dumpers by specifying a fake residential address and then lending it to a cement company. The sodomy case involving former Finance Minister Raghavji, just few days prior to the polls is a big blow. Though the Vidisha strongman has been expelled, the damage seems to be done. Kailash Vijaywargiya who is in-charge of Industries has courted trouble time and again including when he defended the controversial God man Asaram Babu. Bhopal MLA Dhruvanarayan Singh's name figured in the Shehla Massod murder case. Other prominent leaders in this notorious list includes former CM Babulal Gaur, Animal Husbandry Minister Ajay Vishnoi, Medical Education Minister Anup Mishra and Education Minister Archana Chitnis. Twenty eight out of the 143 BJP MLAs have criminal cases pending against them. However, the Congress cannot claim the moral high ground here since 21 of its own men are tainted.


REBELLION

The factor that could take the victory away from the BJP is rebellion and defection amongst its ranks. In a bid to counter anti-incumbency, the party was forced into taking some tough decisions which may boomerang on it. Several sitting MLAs, including few cabinet ministers have been denied tickets. On the other hand, protests were staged by the cadre against the official party nominees in many places. While some of these dissidents are likely to contest as independents, many may join the Congress or smaller parties. Either way, it is Chauhan who will be hurt. In Ratlam constituency, party workers who were unhappy with the nomination of Chetan Kashyap marched to the house of former state Home Minister Himmat Kothari and convinced him to contest as an independent. Realizing that its 'bad' choices could be the deciding factor in the upcoming polls, the saffron outfit is trying hard to woo back the rebels. It was believed that former minister Raghavji who was shown the door few months ago was lobbying for a ticket for his daughter. As his demand was not met, it was speculated that he would rebel and hurt the BJP in at least five seats in the Vidisha region. However, after a behind the doors meeting with Sushma Swaraj, the veteran leader is said to be keeping a low profile. Meanwhile, Shivraj Chauhan has filed his nomination from Vidisha too.

In the Congress camp too, reports of dissidence have emerged. Vice President of the state committee Manak Aggarwal resigned from his post after he was denied a ticket from Hoshangabad. He has accused senior party leader Suresh Pachouri of conniving with the sand mafia to scuttle his chances. Ajay Singh - the Leader of Opposition in the out going legislature was believed to be upset with  Scindia & Kamal Nath faction for ignoring him while deciding party nominees in his home town. Naresh Malviya, another Congressman committed suicide after being denied a nomination from Agar. In Silwani, workers went on a rampage after Devendra Patel - a sitting MLA from the BJP who defected to the Congress was given a ticket. In the early days of the campaign it was believed that the two clans in the MP Congress - one led by the former CM Digvijay Singh and the other under young Jyothiraditya Scindia were fighting over the ticket allocation to their supporters.Luckily for them, it seems that the INC leaders here have realized that the only way to beat the Chauhan regime here is to be united. Just on the eve of the elections, it has been reported that all prominent state leaders were consulted before the final list of candidates was made public.



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