Sunday, October 26, 2008

Congress, BJP Groping In The Dark In Madhya Pradesh

By Roger Alexander

Exactly a month from now, Madhya Pradesh goes to the polls. Yet, both the ruling BJP and the Opposition Congress have failed to announce their candidates for the 230 seats even though some names have been cleared by the respective ‘high commands’. Indeed, both parties had said earlier with a lot of fanfare that the names of candidates would be announced well in advance but nothing of the sort has happened till now.

Reports in the media suggest that the lists will be made public only after Diwali and campaigning in earnest would start only in November 10, giving candidates three weeks to reach out to the electorate.

According to speculative reports, one factor that could be responsible for the delay could be that neither the BJP nor the Congress wants to be the first to declare candidates and both appear to be waiting for the other to make the first move. Besides, Bharatiya Janashakti Party president Uma Bharti has queered the pitch for both parties by holding out hope for aspirants who fail to get tickets from either the BJP or the Congress to contest elections on her party’s ticket. Similarly, Mayawati’s BSP and Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party are also eyeing rebels from the Congress and BJP, though to a lesser extent.

If reports are to be believed, the BJP is toying with the idea of adopting the “Modi formula” of dropping unpopular legislators as a strategy to minimise the anti-incumbency factor. Speculation is rife that around 40 of the 173 MLAs in Madhya Pradesh may miss their names in the list of candidates as the party leadership feels that the state government has done well and cannot afford to lose because of the unpopularity of individual leaders.

The Congress, as usual, is groping in the dark. Even though around 70 candidates have been approved by the ‘high command’, their names have not been made public for fear of driving the losers to revolt (as if they won’t later). Besides, the four top leaders from the state – Arjun Singh, Digvijay Singh, Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia – are pulling in different directions. 

To complicate things further, the BSP has emerged as a strengthened force after the elections in Uttar Pradesh. It has used its base among the Dalits to build a wider coalition of caste politics in the areas adjoining UP, besides the tribal areas. Indeed, the party will be an important factor in Madhya Pradesh even though it has announced that it will not ally with any other party for the elections.

In the 2003 assembly elections, the BSP had obtained 7.6 per cent of the vote resulting in two seats. In the present scenario, it will certainly play the spoiler because it remains squeezed in between the Congress and the BJP which have not declined in the state as in Uttar Pradesh. However, some observers feel that the BSP will hurt the Congress more than the BJP as it draws on same social combination of Dalits and Muslims as the Congress.

Meanwhile, the CPI(M) has announced it will field its candidates in 12 of the 230 constituencies in Madhya Pradesh for the assembly elections on November 25. The party will contest the elections in coordination with the CPI and other secular forces, including the JD(S). The Left parties would appeal the voters to give an opportunity to a third alternative, whether it is the BSP or any other party, to form the government in the state.

Roger And Out!

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