Crucial bypoll test for Shivraj Singh Chouhan in Madhya Pradesh

Asia's Tech News Daily

© Provided by India Today Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is gearing up for yet another trial at the hustings with byelections slated for three assembly segments and one Lok Sabha seat on October 30. And in a season where the BJP is on a chief minister changing spree, the outcome becomes very significant.

Geographically, the assembly segments going to the polls–Jobat, Prithvipur and Raigaon–are located in different regions of the state. While Prithvipur is in Bundelkhand, Raigaon is in Baghelkhand and Jobat is at the extreme end of Malwa. Demographically, Raigaon is a reserved seat for SCs, Jobat is reserved for STs and Prithvipur is a general seat. In other words, the outcome will not only be a projection of the political mood in different regions of the state, it will also be a reflection of the standing of the government among various communities and castes.

What are the issues likely to dominate these byelections? Since all the seats fell vacant due to the death of the incumbent, some amount of sympathy will be at play. However, that will not be the sole factor. The rising cost of diesel and petrol will be a factor as are power outages. More than the shortage of electricity, recovery of electricity bills and confiscation of property proceedings against those who have defaulted on payment are issues. Rising prices and food inflation due to diesel becoming dearer will impact the polling. On October 5, diesel prices crossed the Rs 100 per litre mark in many parts of the state.

The BJP also lags behind as by October 5, the Congress had finalized its candidates for all four seats including the Khandwa Lok Sabha. The Congress, which faced the prospect of infighting in the Khandwa LS seat, where former Union minister Arun Yadav and Jaishree, wife of independent MLA Surendra Singh Shera, were contenders for the ticket, eventually decided to field former MLA Rajnarayan Singh. In Raigaon, the party has fielded Kalpana Verma, in Jobat Mahesh Patel, while in Prithvipur it is Nitendra Rathore, son of the late Brijendra Singh Rathore who has got the ticket. The BJP has not been able to zero in on candidates for the seats and has been compelled to consider defectors at the cost of long-time party workers. In Jobat, the party is likely to field Sulochana Rawat, a former two term Congress MLA who resigned from the Congress and joined the BJP last week.

So how does CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan plan to meet the bypolls challenge? “The BJP has a process for declaring candidates. The state leadership will decide on names and get them approved by the central leadership. Nominations will be filed during Navratri. There is no issue in deciding candidates,” Chouhan told the media on Tuesday.

A team of 12 ministers and 40 MLAs has been drafted for the byelections with each being assigned individual assembly segments to focus on. The state government also carried out an administrative surgery at various levels in the districts where poll bound seats are located. The police SPs of Alirajpur where Jobat segment is located, and Niwari where Prithvipur segment is located were changed in early September. The DM of Niwari was also changed before he could complete a reasonable tenure. The BJP is also banking on its formidable poll machinery, the booth level management and active workers to deliver. In Prithvipur, the BJP is banking on the Yadav vote by fielding a community candidate, a recent defector from the Samajwadi Party. A lot depends on whether the SP and BSP field candidates in the constituency. Since the area borders UP, SP and BSP have considerable influence in certain communities.

The last bypoll in MP, held in Damoh, did not go too well for the BJP. The Congress MLA, Rahul Lodhi, had resigned from his seat and contested the bypolls on a BJP ticket, but he lost.

“The bypoll results will be seen as a comment on the 19-month rule of the present government. Given the mismanagement during the second wave of Covid in which more than 3 lakh deaths took place, the rising unemployment and price rise, the outcome will be negative for the BJP,” says state Congress spokesperson Bhupendra Gupta.

The BJP is more guarded in its response on how the results will be perceived. “The BJP will win the byelections, but it would be unfair to do an assessment of the mood in 230 assembly segments on the basis of the results in 4 seats,” says state BJP spokesperson Pankaj Chaturvedi.

While the poll outcome will not impact the continuation of the existing government in MP, it is bound to have an impact on individual political fortunes. If the BJP is able to win Prithvipur or Jobat, both seats held by the Congress, it would come as a shot in the arm for CM Chouhan. However, if the BJP loses Raigaon or Khandwa, or in fact even if the Congress retains Prithvipur and Jobat, it will be seen as a sign of the CM’s unpopularity, given that incumbent governments have a distinct advantage in byelections. Chouhan’s detractors within the party will leave no stone unturned to extract a political price in case the BJP loses the seats it held earlier. The CM is also aware of this. The question is: can he evade the trap set by his own partymen?

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