Why This is Congress’ Best Chance to Overthrow Shivraj Singh Chouhan Govt in Madhya Pradesh

Bhopal: Out of power for 15 years in Madhya Pradesh, the Congress has gone all in to win the upcoming assembly elections in the state that have been billed as a semi-final for the next year’s general elections.

Most opinion polls in the past few months have given the party an edge in the state as it is expected to ride the anti-incumbency wave against the Shivara Singh Chouhan-led BJP government to power after the three terms.

But the party’s seat count of 37 in 2003, 71 in 2008 and 58 in 2013 assembly polls suggests that it has a daunting task on its hands. BJP emerged as the winner on all three occasions with 173, 143 and 165 seats respectively in the 230 seat assembly.

Congress, well aware that a loss this year could inflict serious attrition at the party cadre level, is desperate to come back to winning ways.

It manifesto released a few days ago covered all the bases as it incorporated extensive measures for farm sector, women, unemployed youths, industrial sector and even a lot to appease the majority population.

Unlike in other states where the lack of local faces cost it heavily, the party is packed with experienced leaders in almost every region of the state.

From Digvijaya Singh, who holds a sizeable sway over party workers across the state, to Kamal Nath, who enjoys clout in Mahakaushal region, to Jyotiraditya Scindia, who has mass support base in Gwalior-Chambal region, there is no dearth of local leaders.

In addition, there is Ajay Singh in Vindhya region, Suresh Pachauri in central MP, Arun Yadav in Nimar region and Kantilla Bhuria in the Jhabua-Ratlam tribal belt.

In fact, one could say there is a problem of plenty for the party, which has come across on many occasions in the form of internal rifts and tussles over seat distribution and posts.

As the party seniors vouch for unity, reports of internal tussle keep coming out of closed-door meetings, including the much-hyped Digvijaya- Scindia feud ahead of announcement of candidates.

But the BJP’s house is also not in order in the state, and is perhaps in worse shape, as several party seniors got embroiled in controversies – Narottam Mishra in a paid news case, Lal Singh Arya in MLA Makhan Singh Jatav’s murder case, Surendra Patwa in a loan issue and Rampal Singh in a suicide case by his alleged daughter-in law.

Other senior leaders like Babulal Gaur, Sartaj Singh and Kusum Mahdele too embarrassed the saffron party over ticket distribution.

Gaur almost took on the entire party after he was not re-nominated from Govindpura and only withdrew his rebellion after his daughter-in-law Krishna was given a ticket. Sartaj Singh, on the other hand, joined the Congress and senior minister Kusum Mahdele vented anger publicly after she was denied a ticket. Party cadre have also revolted openly over ticket distribution in many areas.

The BJP also faced stiff opposition in Gwalior-Chambal and other areas with the emergence of Samanya Pichhra Alpsankhyak Kalyan (SAPAKS) party, which managed to mobilise non-reserved categories on quota issue.

On the contrary, the Congress has remained very cautious on ticket distribution, keeping in mind the regional and social equations.

The party, however, could not pair up with Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party, which had clinched 6.5% vote share last time, despite extended deliberations. Still, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who has been wading through controversies one after another in his 13 year term at CM House, seems a tough opponent yet again.

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