With Assembly elections round the corner, there are speculations whether the party would win the state election for the third time in succession or will the electorate choose Congress a decade.
Till a few months back, the feeling in Madhya Pradesh, was that Congress didn't have much chance. It was commonly said that Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan's image would help the party win the election with ease.
But with leaders now crisscrossing the state and political parties conducting their own in-house surveys, it has dawned upon the BJP that the situation is quite different. In urban centres, it was believed that Congress doesn't have a face in the State.
However, now it seems that the Congress is not only in the race, but it may be tough for the BJP to retain the power. The ruling party's ministers who were ensconced in their comfortable bungalows, had to again take the dusty routes in rural MP, when they felt that the polls are due soon.
Then, they found that the BJP is not too comfortably placed. Except CM's image of a humble man, they don't have much to speak for in terms of achievement.
While poor electricity is major issue in rural parts, other schemes haven't been implemented efficiently. Investment and jobs were promised but not much happened on the ground.
The party has now realised it, although its quite late. Worse, there is strong resentment against the MLAs and the Ministers. For this, the BJP needs to change a lot of candidates, which is also difficult. The reason is that legislators when denied the ticket, play spoilsport for the party.
|Shivraj Singh Chouhan|
The Congress was a divided house till recently. But with Ajay Singh [late Arjun Singh's son], Kantilal Bhuria, Kamal Nath and Digvijay Singh, putting up a joint front, and Jyotiraditya Scindia being pitted as as CM candidate, the party workers seem more confident.
Scindia does have an influence in Gwalior-Chambal region. The stampede at the Ratangarh temple has also been used by the opposition to fuel public anger against the BJP.
For the BJP, it has CM's image and his pet-schemes like 'Ladli Laxmi', which especially target women voters.
Definitely, there is huge corruption and recent scams have hit the party hard. To state BJP's credit, there have been few communal clashes. Chouhan has lot of goodwill among electorate but will he be able to counter two terms of incumbency? That's the question.
MP is a state where the third force has little presence. Once, Phool Singh Baraiya, had turned the BSP into a major force here. But Mayawati's strange decision to expel him, hit the party here. The SP has no strong base here except in areas bordering UP.
The Gondwana Gantantra Party (GGP) looks resurgent. But it has presence only the tribal dominated seats. Madhya Pradesh is among the states with the largest tribal population in the country. It also has a sizable Dalit populace.
Besides, the state has nearly 45-50% OBCs. But unlike UP, the politics is not caste-oriented. Chouhan, who belongs to Kirar, an OBC caste, has acceptability among almost all sections. The reason is his moderate image, which he has cultivated with effort.
An alumnus of the historic Hamidia College in Bhopal, he has also kept promises like construction of Haj House. In Ladli Laxmi scheme, 'nikaah's are also held at state expense, just like Hindu couple's marriages.
Besides, in Senior Citizens' pilgrimage scheme also, Muslims have been included and the elderly sent free of cost, to Ajmer on a regular basis, just like Hindus are going to famous shrines across the country.
It is not that BJP here is totally secularised. In fact, RSS agenda keeps coming to fore time and again. Still, the party has kept the lumpen elements at bay.
In 2003, BJP had won with a landslide majority. There was visible public anger among citizens as Congress government had failed to even repair the roads in the State.
The roads in MP had become a joke nationwide under Digvijay Singh's regime. Uma Bharti was the first chief minister after BJP formed the government. But after a Hubli court warrant, Babulal Gaur became the CM for a short term.
Since then, Shivraj Singh Chouhan has been at the helm. In 2008 election, the party won under his leadership here. Now if the BJP wins for the third time, it will also increase his stature in the BJP, as well as strengthening his kind of 'inclusive politics'.
As elections are drawing nearer, it's clear that we are all going to witness a close contest in MP.