With the assembly elections fast approaching, all political party strategists are busy in calculating the permutation and combination. After 15 years in power and winning three out of four assembly seats here in Mandsaur district in 2013 state assembly polls, it will be a tough nut to crack for the ruling BJP this time, especially after previous year’s farmers’ agitation and this year upper caste protest over the Amendment of SC/ST (prevention of atrocity) Act.
Divided into four assembly constituencies namely Mandsaur, Garoth, Suwasra and Malhargarh, Congress pocketed only Suwasra seat where Hardeep Singh Dung emerged victorious. Not only farmer or upper caste agitations, but non-fulfillment of promises made by the government to the people and entry of new parties like BSP, SAPAKS and voters’ tilt towards NOTA could play spoilsport for both the parties.
Mandsaur & the farmer agitation
First and foremost, farmer’s agitation and killing of six farmers in a police firing on June 6, 2017 will become a hot issue not only in Mandsaur district, but across the state and no party will let this issue go. Even Congress attacked state government over the incident at different platforms.
After the incident, Congress party national president Rahul Gandhi was the first to mark the anniversary of the farmer protests and staged a rally in Mandsaur on June 6 this year and virtually launched the election campaign for the party. Gandhi attacked the BJP governments at the Centre and the state. Six farmers were killed in police firing, leading to violent protests that spread to neighbouring districts.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi was denied permission by the administration to meet the farmers. Many political observers belived that the incident tarnished BJP imaged to a certain extent and this could be a deciding factor in the area. The protests forced the Chouhan government to launch Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana (BBY) in October 2017, under which registered farmers would be paid the difference between the minimum support price (MSP) and a model price.
Upper caste voters drifting other way
In September, multiple districts across the state observed a complete shutdown in support of protests called by various upper caste outfits against amendments to the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act passed by Parliament in July. The protests were called by upper-caste outfits including the new Samanya Pichra Alpsankhyak Kalyan Samaj (SAPAKS) party, Rajput Karni Sena, among others. Reports suggests that the upper-caste voters, who have traditionally supported the BJP in the state, may be drifting the other way.
Though BJP is in power for the last 15 years in the state and Chouhan has been at the helm of affairs for 13-long-years maintaining his image of vikas purush’, inside reports suggest that anti-incumbency factor could bring some cheer for the opposition this time. Many believe that a tide of voters seeking change of guard would be difficult for Chouhan to overturn. Even in the past, parties witnessed large swing of votes in 2003, when the BJP stormed to power.
Rising unemployment could be another factor that continues to be hurting BJP government in the state, like other states in the country. The Chouhan government has come under fire for lack of job creation. The opposition has also targeted the BJP government over this issue and has been promising speedy creation of jobs, if elected.
Entry of new parties
Entry of new parties like SP, BSP, SAPAKS could change the equations on ground level very fast. It is going to be a tough pitch for both the traditional parties BJP and Congress.
Madhya Pradesh had recorded an overall 72.21% voter turnout in 2013. Districts like Jhabua, Bhind, Gwalior, Chhatarpur and Tikamgarh had bucked the trend of higher turnout elsewhere in the state and recorded voting percentages between 53 and 57%.A large number of people from these districts work in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat. According to the Census 2011, 50 lakh people migrated from Madhya Pradesh, out of which 11 lakhs migrated seasonally every year.