Agitation launched by the SAPAKS (Samanya Avam Pichda Alpsankhyak Sangathan) and Rajput Karni Sena in protest against enforcement of amended ‘SC-ST Prevention of Atrocity Act, 2018’ appears to have compelled the arch rival political parties BJP and Congress to rethink on their strategy for the Assembly Elections-2018. In fact, both these parties which had planned to declare their candidates for 230 seats well in advance have failed to do so even as the model code of conduct came into force on October 6.
Looking at the current political scenario, these parties are unlikely to announce the names of their candidates before October 25. Almost one week has gone after the declaration of poll schedule, but the top brass of BJP and Congress looks to be in the state of uneasiness. BJP, which enjoys power both in the state and Centre and got thumping majority in Assembly Elections-2013 (won 165 out of 230 seats) and Lok Sabha Elections- 2014 (won 27 out of 29 seats), is hesitant to announce even first list of its candidates.
Situation is so peculiar that the high-profile BJP president Amit Shah has been extensively touring the state now-adays which is just reverse to 2013 elections when Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan was on the tour under his ‘Jan Ashirwad Yatra’. Free Press tried to go into the depth to know the reason why the BJP appears to be under the indecisiveness condition. A senior IPS officer disclosed that the movements launched by Karni Sena and SAPAKS have started showing effect on the poll strategy of ruling party.
A psephologist also said the outrage of the upper castes during the recent past has pushed both the main rival parties on doldrums. “The parties which had announced to release list of candidates well before the announcement of election schedule nowhere look in a decisive position which clearly reflects that the present scenario is quite different to the scenario of 2013,” he contended. Not only the upper castes and other backward castes, but SC-ST and minority communities also did not favour the Congress much during last two elections (Assembly Election- 2013 and Lok Sabha Election-2014) and its tally reduced to 58 and 2, respectively.
With upper castes already voiced against BJP and Congress during recent protests, Muslims, Dalits and ST voters also look to be shifting elsewhere, as pointed out by the MP Institute of Social Science Research director Yatindra Singh Sisodia. “SAPAKS has though so far failed to show strong bases among electorates, it may prove to be a spoiler for both BJP and Congress,” opined he. (email@example.com)
Even as Madhya Pradesh has come to be identified as a stronghold of BJP, the role of Congress in the state has never been decimated. Being a bipolar state, fortunes of one party almost proportionately reflect in the performance of the other major competitor in the state.
Today MP is seen as a stronghold of BJP, next only to Gujarat. Even at the beginning of the ‘90s, the BJP was in power in the state, only to be removed in the wake of the demolition of the disputed structure at Ayodhya in 1992. Earlier too, the state was known for its pro-Jan Sangh politics with a strong network of the RSS. This historical background helped the BJP in the nineties when Congress registered a decline at the all- India level.
It is a moot question: what would happen if other parties play a stronger role in elections? The entry of other parties has the capacity to upset the bipolar situation and this can hurt the interests of any one of the two main parties.
Role of caste and community in elections has two dimensions: one is of the parties and candidates and the second is of the voters. The former seeks support of the voters, projecting themselves as champions of particular social and economic interests. At the same time the latter dimension indicates what the support base of parties is.
Two things are striking when we look at the pattern of social base of the two parties in MP: there is no clear social divide along the caste hierarchy. Both the parties manage to get substantial support from most groups—except that Muslims overwhelmingly vote for the Congress. However, polarisation of voters on social lines may dominate the election outcome this time.