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M.P. bypolls acid test for Shivraj Chouhan

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.   | Photo Credit: A.M. Faruqui

Issues outside Madhya Pradesh — violence in Lakhimpur Kheri, rising prices and food inflation, and fertiliser shortage — are likely to impact by-elections in three Assembly seats and one Lok Sabha seat in the State, scheduled for October 30.

A win in two or more seats will consolidate the position of Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the only BJP Chief Minister from the Vajpayee-Advani era still in power. A victory will also silence critics who have been expecting the central leadership of effect a reshuffle on the lines of Uttarakhand, Karnataka and Gujarat.

Also Read: BJP fielded 50% women candidates in Madhya Pradesh bypolls: CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan

However, Mr. Chouhan is not quite the same as other BJP CMs — Trivendra Singh Rawat and Tirath Singh Rawat (both in Uttarakhand) and Vijay Rupani in Gujarat.

“Both Shivrajji and Yogiji [Yogi Adityanath of U.P.] are mass leaders, unlike these others who were appointee CMs,” a senior Minister said.

“These elections are more significant than they might otherwise have been for Chouhan. His popularity, typical art to beat anti-incumbency still dominates among the voters,” a senior party functionary told The Hindu at the State party headquarters.

Outreach campaign

In the second week of September, Mr. Chouhan undertook a Jan Darshan Yatra, a public outreach programme to directly interact with the people on whether benefits from government schemes were reaching them and to gauge the pulse of the voters of the poll-bound constituencies. During his yatra and later on at public meetings, he went on a suspension spree of officials on corruption charges.

Ab mein danda lekar nikla hoon; gadbad karne walo ko chhodunga nahi kisi bhi keemat par (I’m out with a stick, I won’t spare anyone who indulges in wrongdoing),” Mr. Chouhan said after suspending a tehsildar on corruption charges at a public meeting in Tikamgarh district in September.

Similarly, during his visit to Singhpur in Raigaon, another Assembly constituency where bypoll is due, the Chief Minister pulled up officers for their inability to provide tap water connections to the villagers under the Nal Jal Yojna.

His act is quite enough to contain anti-incumbency in the four constituencies that have a strong OBC and Thakur (the community to which Mr. Chouhan belongs) presence.

Mr. Chouhan became Chief Minister for the fourth time after Kamal Nath’s Congress government fell in March 2020. In Mr. Chouhan’s first test in November 2020, the BJP won 19 out of 28 seats, thanks to support from former Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia, who joined the party with his supporters, necessitating the by polls.

Hoping for rebound

For the Congress, the main opposition party, a win is likely to be a boost to prepare for the Assembly elections two years away. Senior Congress leader and former Chief Minister Kamal Nath thinks that the results of the upcoming by polls will give a message to the nation.

Addressing a rally in Khandwa Lok Sabha seat, Mr. Nath criticised the BJP-led governments at the Centre and in the State responsible for price rise and fooling people.

“People can't be fooled every time,” said Mr. Nath at a public meeting in Khanda Lok Sabha seat a few days back. People are distressed due to rising prices and a downturn in the economy, he added.

The Assembly segments going to the polls are spread across the State. Prithvipur is in Bundelkhand, Raigaon is in Baghelkhand and Jobat is at the extreme end of Malwa and the Khandwa Lok Sabha seat is in Nimar.

The saffron party has begun a door-to-door campaign “shakti mein hai bhakti” worshipping little girls as part of the Navratri puja festival. The Congress has termed BJP’s campaign as political kanya poojan.

The byelections were necessitated by the death of the MLAs and the MP due to COVID-19. But the political parties have not made this a political issue.

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Printable version | Dec 4, 2021 10:31:03 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/mp-bypolls-acid-test-for-shivraj-chouhan/article37140326.ece

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