Battleground Madhya Pradesh

If one goes by conventional wisdom on how people vote, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who faces 15 years of anti-incumbency, should find it difficult to win another term when the State goes to the polls by the end of this year. This is suggested in the results of urban local body elections across 13 districts in which the Congress won nine of the 14 municipal seats, and the by-elections for the Assembly constituencies in Mungaoli and Kolaras (early this year) and Ater and Khajuraho (last year). There are some signs that sections of the electorate, especially farmers, are unhappy, but that may not be enough for the Congress to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is in power. The electorate could be inclined towards voting for the Congress, evident from a survey conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) a few months ago. Some other surveys also indicate a marginal shift away from the BJP. But a divided Congress does not seem to be ready as yet to capitalise on this. Despite the Vyapam scam, Mr. Chouhan is still very popular and the BJP has the advantage of projecting him again as its chief ministerial candidate. In this, the Congress is handicapped as it does not have a chief ministerial face. Despite the Vyapam scam being highlighted in the media, the Congress has failed to make it an issue that resonates with the common man. Compounding matters, the Congress’s State unit is a divided lot and there are many factions. Discussion about the Congress’s electoral prospects in M.P. invariably ends up being about factionalism. within the party. In this the BJP could score over the Congress, especially when the electorate compares the local and national leadership of the two parties.

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