By Azra Ali

The 2023 Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly elections are just around the corner and are scheduled to be held from 17 November to elect all 230 members of the state’s Legislative Assembly. Several burning issues like the OBC reservation, major schemes announced, communal clashes, and caste politics will define the course of this election.

The politics over the ‘OBC’ card

Caste plays a dominant role in the Indian politics and the election system. Congress is trying hard to gain votes on its promises of reservation for OBC. BJP and Congress have worked hard to get their caste balance right in the Madhya Pradesh election.

An Azim Premji University – CSDS survey tells us 55 percent of Indians prefer a politician from their caste and this number in MP is very high at 65 percent.

In Madhya Pradesh, Hindus account for 91 percent, Muslims 7 percent and other religious groups 2 percent of the population. MP is estimated to have around 50 percent OBC, 20 percent ST, 15 percent SC and 15 percent upper caste/general category population. The ticket distribution by Congress and BJP exhibit almost a similar pattern, with the saffron party sticking to its unstated policy of not giving any ticket to Muslim candidates.

Upper castes and OBCs are anchor voting segments of the BJP. SC-ST and Muslims are the anchor voting segments for the Congress.

In the 1990s after the implementation of the Mandal Commission Report, most of the Hindi heartland states installed an OBC/Dalit Chief Minister except for MP. In 2003 by installing an OBC, Uma Bharti and then Babulal Gaur and later Shivraj Singh Chouhan as Chief Minister, BJP won the hearts of OBCs. Congress did have a contender in the 1990s, Subhash Yadav, but he was discarded in favour of Digvijaya Singh.

Congress with its caste census demand and implementation of 27 percent OBC reservation in the state when Kamal Nath was briefly in office (until then it was only 14 percent) is trying to wean away the OBCs from the BJP as their support is crucial to win the state.

Challenges infront of the present BJP Govt in MP

Atrocities against the Dalits on a surge

MP ranked first in crime rate against Dalits in 2021, and it tops the list for highest number of atrocities against Adivasis. The infamous urination incident involving a BJP worker, now sacked, is still fresh in everyone’s minds. Congress is thus very hopeful of bagging the SC-ST vote.

On the other hand, BJP hopes that since many SC-ST voters are beneficiaries of state and central government schemes, they would vote based on their class identities and not caste. This labharthi votebank is BJP’s big hope.

Anti- incumbency

The BJP is facing a huge challenge in Madhya Pradesh due to almost 20 years of anti-incumbency and tickets to the same old faces. With Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah taking command, the electoral battle has converted into BJP High Command versus Kamal Nath plus Congress High Command

The never ending tale of ‘ghotalas’

Congress released a “Ghotala sheet” listing the scams that allegedly took place under the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh in the last 18 years.The ‘Ghotala sheet’ published by the party listed 254 scams including the infamous Vyapam scam (₹2,000 crore), illegal mining (₹50,000 crore), e-tender scam (₹3,000 crore), RTO scam (₹25,000 crore), liquor scam (₹86,000 crore), Mahakal Lok (₹100 crore) and electricity scam (₹94,000 crore).

 Khargone violence

The infamous Khargone violence which occurred in April 2022, when a procession took out on the occasion of Ram Navmi led to the demolitions of houses and shops belonging to Muslims.

Often referred as Shanti Ka Tapu (Island of Peace) by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the state has recorded 479 cases of rioting (section 147 of the IPC) between Jan and June 2022,according to Madhya Pradesh Police. Of them, over 30% of the cases are related to communal clashes.

Even the Congress leader, Digvijaya Singh made a statement alleging that the ruling BJP is planning “Nuh-like riots” in the state before the assembly elections.

 Major schemes announced

 As the elections are about to begin, every political party is trying to out do each other by announcing several payouts or freebies. We can’t deny that they will take a toll on the finances of the state, taking away precious funds that could be used for development work instead.

This has created a lot of stress among the tax paying citizens and even the Supreme Court issued notices tot the Centre, the Election Commission of India and the Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan state governments asking them to explain the rationale behind the payouts.

CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan in March announced the Ladli Behna Yojana (LBY) under which Rs 1,000 per month will be paid to women eligible under the scheme. In April 2023, a process of competitve bidding for votes began with the Congress announcing the Naari Samman Yojana under which women would get Rs  1,500 per month and gas cylinders at Rs 500.

In April, 2023, the Congress announcing the Naari Samman Yojana under which women would get Rs 1,500 per month and gas cylinders at Rs 500. The Congress also began getting forms filled up for the scheme leading to unease in the BJP. Chouhan then returned with a revised offer and began paying Rs 1,250 per month, to be revised eventually to Rs 3,000 per month.

Way forward

MP Legislative Assembly elections which will commence in few days has everyone eyes on it, with Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Kamal Nath coming out as the major competitors. The MP elections will also affect the upcoming 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *