Battle for Assembly polls in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Mizoram begins with the announcement of poll dates by the Election Commission
The process for Assembly elections in five states – Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Mizoram has begun. As expected, narratives are being built up both at the level of political parties and in the media and among the so-called intellectuals. The BJP is determined to retain Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. The BJP poll managers are also promising to make inroads in Telangana and Mizoram.
Chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat flanked by Election Commissioners Sunil Arora (L) and Ashok Lavasa (R) announcing poll dates in five states
The BJP is in power in Rajasthan since 2013. It had won 163 seats out of 200. Prime Minister Shri Modi has backed the Vasundhara Raje government. On October 6, at a mega rally in Ajmer he said: “Having heard the Chief Minister and as she listed out the welfare measures, I am convinced had I been a voter in Rajasthan, my first job would have been to bring back the BJP-led government in the state”.
On the other hand, the Congress campaign for this round of Assembly polls is often found ill-advised by Rahul Gandhi’s coterie. There is a missing 'accountable' bug and apparently he has been counselled that this measure could be replaced by gross abuses he would throw on country's Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Thus, ‘Modi Bashing’ is the order of the day in Congress politics – often with half-baked information and the motive of indulging in false propaganda. As a result in the opposition campaign in three BJP-ruled states and also in TRS-governed Telangana, there is a visible political vacuum – in the opposition space. Prime Minister Shri Modi himself says the opposition parties have failed to discharge their duties.
Total Seats : 90
Seats won in 2013
BJP: 49 (vote share 41%)
INC: 39 (vote share 40%)
BSP: 1 (vote share 4%)
Ind. & Others: 1 (vote share 15%)
“We admit there may be lapses in governance, but the opposition is not persuading a purposeful debate on basic issues. They believe in politics of mudslinging,” Shri Modi said at the mammoth rally of Ajmer. “I am not surprised by the standard of political campaign. Rahul Gandhi and other Congress leaders are never focused on performance and instead believe only in the politics of antagonism. But this politics of negativism has only added to the woes of the Congress. This is one reason, the attempt for alliance with parties such as Samajwadi Party and BSP has failed,” says Jaipur-based educationist Jaideb Purohit.
In Chhattisgarh’s Bilaspur, trader Arun Jain partly shares the same sentiment. He says: “It is possible that a section of the electorate mood is in favour of the opposition Congress even in Chhattisgarh – after 15 years of Dr Raman Singh regime. But, I am still confident, the BJP will retain power in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh as time tested 'Narendra Modi factor' can again inspire yet another victory for the BJP”. “There is also no viable alternative to the BJP at least in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh,” he says.
In Jaipur, any BJP leader worth his salt would actually swear by the Moditva phenomenon. “Where is the debate, you see......the country is firm about Narendra Modi’s another five year term, this includes Rajasthan also. So, people of Rajasthan will not break the proper synchronisation between the State government and the Central Government headed by Shri Modi. Congress may talk about double anti-incumbency, we have an example of what Prime Minster says ‘double engine’ growth and development,” says Rajasthan BJP media in-charge Bimal Kataria.
Lotus amid Mizoram Rocks
Now, zero down on states like Mizoram – a Christian dominated state – and also Telangana, India’s youngest state – the Modi factor rules the roost in any electioneering. In the north eastern state Mizoram, over the decades – the BJP has been at the receiving end of allegations from political detractors for being ‘anti-Christian’. In fact, there is a political joke too that Mizoram rocks are hard enough where ‘Lotus’ may not bloom. But the politics is also about continuous crusade and making use of right symbolism. The BJP’s poll strategists, therefore say - with the victories in Nagaland, Tripura and Meghalaya – which house overwhelming Christians and tribals – earlier this year the tag of ‘Hindu Chauvanism’ would be countered forcefully.
Total Seats : 200
Seats won in 2013
BJP: 163 (vote share 45%)
INC: 21 (vote share 33%)
BSP: 3 (vote share 3%)
Ind. & Others: 13 (vote share 19%)
“We are eyeing at a tectonic shift of Indian politics and more so in Mizoram, where people will rise above religious identity and endorse Prime Minister’s vision of Development of All, Development for All,” says BJP leader Virendra Sachdeva, associated with the Good Governance cell of the party. There is no denying strategically, the BJP has been banking on “Narendra Modi” factor in most if not all elections in last four years when the BJP stormed to power in 2014. The ‘Modi factor’ does draw diehard fans of the Prime Minister to vote for the BJP candidates irrespective of that person's social background or caste or religion.
Ground Zero: Rajasthan
Congress leader and a sitting legislator Maharaja Vishvendra Singh in Rajasthan’s Bharatpur says in subtle remarks and that offers ‘opportunities’ for the BJP to work on: “I would like to tell my party – the Congress, they should not be over confident. Ticket distribution has to be done very carefully. On this, I am being frank as it is my duty to give warning to the party”. He cautioned that the euphoria now seen among Congress workers in Rajasthan “has to convert into votes”. Having said this, the BJP for its part needs to redraw its strategies as the Congress and other social groups are only trying to lead the upper caste Hindus to a revolt - essentially from vote bank politics.
Chouhan holds the Key
In Madhya Pradesh, the BJP is pitted against 15-year-old incumbency but the Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is banking on his performance yardstick. “I believe elections can be won only by performance. Those who perform will survive in power.....And as far as performance yardstick is concerned, you can make your own independent assessment, the BJP will continue to win the confidence of the people in Madhya Pradesh and also remain in power,” Chouhan assured a group of visiting journalists recently. But in the central Indian state, the politics is not that simple. Chouhan told a group of supporters recently that the Congress will try to trigger a riot or mass violence in the state by instigating farmers. “They want some big troubles in the state....some violence and bloodshed. They are continuously doing this,” he reportedly said.
Total Seats : 230
Seats won in 2013
BJP: 166 (vote share 45%)
INC: 57 (vote share 37%)
BSP: 4 (vote share 6%)
Ind. & Others: 3 (vote share 12%)
“Shanti sey koi kam na ho, iske liye opposition kisi bhi seema tak jane ke liye taiyar hai (To spark off violence in Madhya Pradesh, opposition Congress is willing to go to any extent),” Chouhan has been quoted in reference to Rahul Gandhi’s visit to Mandsaur on June 6 to protest against the death of six farmers in police firing last year. But it goes to the credit of the people and administration that things have been kept under control. The Congress is desperately trying to put up a united fight as stalwarts Kamal Nath, Digvijay Singh and Jyotiraditya Scindia have been asked to fall in line.
It’s Advantage Raman Singh
Chief Minister Dr Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh remains popular as well as a symbol of good administration. Things have turned advantageous for him after Mayawati dumped Congress and aligned with the newly floated splinter party headed by Ajit Jogi. By all calculations, the split in anti-BJP votes would in the ultimate analysis help Dr Raman Singh score yet another victory. If he does so, this will be a record as BJP is set to have longest serving Chief Minister. So is the case with Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who took over the reins in 2005 after a bitter round of internal conflict. Earlier, Modi was one of the longest surviving Chief Ministers and had ruled Gujarat between 2001 and 2014.
Total Seats : 119
Seats won in 2014
TRS: 63INC: 21
TDP: 15 AIMIM: 7
BJP: 5YSRCP: 3
BSP: 2CPI: 1
CPM: 1IND: 1
But Raman Singh’s challenges will be to make grounds in the Naxal hit areas – where Congress had put up a better show in 2013. In Bastar region between the seven districts there are 12 crucial seats. The BJP had won 9 of them in 2003 and the vote share was 41 per cent. This had improved to 11 in 2008.
BJP’s Ambitious plans in Telangana
In Telangana, the BJP has organisational weaknesses, but the party leader P Muralidhar Rao says his party alone can push the pace of development. Amit Shah has drawn ambitious plans and thus banked on organisational skills of Sunil Deodhar, who is credited for scripting a glorious victory in onetime Marxists’ den of Tripura. Union Minister JP Nadda has been named as poll incharge for the BJP in Telangana, where the stage is set for a triangular contest between the TRS, the BJP and the Congress. The TRS had already come up with its first list of 105 candidates for the 119-seat Telangana Assembly on September 6 itself - immediately after the KCR Government got the Governor to dissolve the Assembly.
Total Seats : 40
Seats won in 2013
INC: 34 (vote share 44.6%)
MNF: 5 (vote share 28.7%)
MPC: 1 (vote share 6.2%)
The ‘pro-change’ mood favours the BJP in Telangana, which is craving for development. “Regardless of any affiliation, we want change,” said Abdul Qadir, a Hyderabad based student from Hyderabad. Studying in a technical college in Delhi, Qadir says both TRS and the Congress party that ruled the state for decades could not advance the case of development as per the potentials. In many places, the challenges are on social front too. “Congress is displaying confidence. But most of it is misplaced. The infighting between Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot will add to our advantage in Rajasthan. There is height of negative politics. Knowing very well that our traditional supporters will never move towards Congress, the Congress leaders are urging voters – especially the upper caste ones to opt for NOTA. The Congress does not have the confidence of urging the electorate to vote for them,” says Jitendra Shrimali, BJP spokesman, Rajasthan
(The writer is a freelancer and has travelled in various parts of poll-bound Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh)