Other States

Madhya Pradesh bypolls a prestige battle for Scindia, Kamal Nath

Political drama: Jyotiraditya Scindia, left, and Kamal Nath, who were once on the same side, now stand apart.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Amid portraits of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president J.P. Nadda and Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on the hoardings at the party’s Bhopal office, the absence of a popular face, whose 19 supporters are in the fray for the 28 bypolls after pulling down the Congress government in March, is glaring.

“Members of the party, even if a Maharaj, have to stick to its discipline and convention,” explained a worker, referring to the royal ancestry of Rajya Sabha MP Jyotiraditya Scinda who does not figure on the hoardings.

People's court: On Madhya Pradesh by-elections

Mr. Scindia, who led the Congress to victory in the Assembly elections in 2018, is now a BJP member but his stature as a new entrant and unyielding stiffness has meant that he is eclipsed by the party’s more committed, older leaders.

The byelections to 28 seats in Madhya Pradesh will decide the fate of the seven-month-old Shivraj Singh Chouhan government. Twenty-five seats fell vacant after the defection of 22 Congress MLAs — 19 of whom backed Mr. Scindia — and three others later. Three other seats have fallen vacant after the deaths of sitting legislators.

However, the polls are more a prestige battle between Mr. Scindia, who left the Congress and is eyeing a Ministerial Berth at the Centre, and former Congress Chief Minister Kamal Nath.

The BJP has given a ticket to all the defectors.

Also read: I understood that Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh will ruin the Congress govt. in months, says Jyotiraditya Scindia

The Congress, which won 27 of the 28 seats in 2018, needs to win all to pull up its tally of 88 MLAs and wrest power again. However, after the political drama of the defections and change of government, it can no longer rely on the support of the four independent, two Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the lone Samajwadi legislators, which had helped it cross the 115 simple majority mark previously.

The BSP MLAs seemingly backed the BJP during the political turmoil, while independents are eager to secure ministerial berths, irrespective of the party in government.

Meanwhile, the BJP needs to extend its tally of 107 by at least nine seats in the 230-member Assembly to retain power.

With 16 seats up for grabs in the Gwalior-Chambal region, the Scindia stronghold, the BJP is drawing strength from the former Congress leader’s cadre. In 2018, Mr. Scindia’s popularity was just behind that of Mr. Chouhan, far exceeding that of Mr. Nath, according to a CSDS-Madhya Pradesh Post-Poll Survey 2018. Yet the denial of the Chief Minister's post sparked off discontentment which led to the fall of the Congress government.

Also read: Not angry with Scindia, says CM Kamal Nath

With Mr. Nath leading the campaign, the Congress’ appeal to voters is to salvage democracy by bringing back the party to power. It is also seeking to garner support by highlighting its the opposition to the Centre’s three recent farm Acts, police brutalities and atrocities against Dalits, the spread of the sand and liquor mafia in the State and the BJP government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Faced with an erosion of its cadre in Gwalior-Chambal after Mr. Scindia’s exit, the party has been scrambling to revive its organisation locally.

The non-fulfilment of election promises most prominently of waiving crop loans within 10 days of government is the major poll plank of the BJP, which is also pointing to Mr. Nath’s reported ignorance of farmers’ issues and ‘poor-performance’ as a Chief Minister.

Both the parties are intent on wooing the Dalit vote as nine seats are reserved for Scheduled Castes candidates. But the BSP’s considerable popularity among Jatavs in pockets adjacent to Uttar Pradesh such as Chambal and Vindhya Pradesh is likely to throw a triangular contest on a few seats. In 2018, the party secured the second spot on Gohad, Dabra and Pohri, while altered results on Gwalior, Gwalior East and Mungaoli. Two of its contestants this time are former Congressman.

Also read: Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sachin Pilot were the ‘princelings’ of Congress, says Manish Tewari

The Congress vote share jumped by nearly four points to 40.85% in the 2018 election, marginally behind the 40.91% of the BJP, which has ruled the State for 15 years.

On the 34 seats of Chambal, the Congress had won 26 with Mr. Scindia’s support and the BJP just seven.

This time, the Congress is seeking to reap dividends through the tropes of ‘honour’ and ‘pride’, that still hold currency in Chambal especially, asking voters to reject ‘traitors’ and ‘sold out’ leaders to win maximum seats in Bhind and Morena districts.

Former Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh, first within the Congress to flag reported the BJP’s efforts by the BJP to lure its MLAs in March, has receded to the background, left to placate those upset at being denied a ticket. Often identified by the BJP as responsible for ‘infighting’ within the Congress which led to the fall of the government, Mr. Singh was even accused by a Congress Minister last year of attempting to destabilise it.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Nov 28, 2020 2:51:30 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/madhya-pradesh-bypolls-a-prestige-battle-for-scindia-kamal-nath/article32919464.ece

Next Story