The battle in Madhya Pradesh seems to be not just between the Congress and the BJP but also within various factions of the two parties, especially within the saffron family. The focus may be on the Digvijaya Singh-Kamal Nath duo after a comment made by the latter went viral where he is asking party workers who were denied tickets to go and tear Digvijaya’s clothes, but in reality, the duo also know that if the Congress has to come back they have to first work together, and divide the spoils later. When Digvijaya was CM he had Nath’s support and the two worked in tandem during Nath’s chief ministerial stint as well. However, within the BJP the matter is not as clear cut with the party divided between those owing allegiance to Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Prahlad Joshi, Jyotiraditya SIngh and Narendra Singh Tomar, not to mention the wild card entry of Kailash Vijayvargiya. In fact a leaked video has since gone viral which allegedly has the Union Minister Narendra Tomar’s son, Devendra talking about mining deals ranging from Rs 100 crore to Rs 18 crore to Rs 21 crore. As is often the case with such videos, this one too is apparently said to have been leaked by a rival camp within the BJP.
SCINDIA VS CHAUHAN VS TOMAR
More to the point, Narendra Singh Tomar is contesting from Morena, which is in the Chambal-Gwalior belt that is the fiefdom of former Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia. Hence the rise of one will only be at the expense of the other, and party workers in the region are only too aware of this unsaid rivalry. It is not all smooth sailing for Scindia either; there is some resentment amongst BJP workers in his area, at the reception given to those MLAs who had defected with Scindia to join the BJP, stating that they were given preference over old loyalists. There is a view that of all the chief ministerial contenders the one that Jyotiraditya would not like to emerge as the CM face would probably be Tomar as he would then emerge as the tallest leader in the region. As a political wag pointed out, contrary to the public perception, Scindia would probably be happy to see Chouhan back as CM and in fact, when he had defected to the BJP, it was to help Chouhan retain his old seat. Of course that is unless Scindia himself emerges as a potential frontrunner for the top job. But first the BJP has to retain the state.
THE MADHYA PRADESH CAMPAIGN
The election in Madhya Pradesh has reached a high voltage level, especially during the last leg of the campaign. The Prime Minister himself has held over 14 rallies, targeting both Rahul Gandhi and the Congress, and reminding the crowd that the Ram Mandir will be constructed by January at the Ram Janmabhumi (place of Lord Ram’s birth). The party has also released a video with the song, “Mandir wahin bana rahen hain”. There is a lot of talk of the Ladli Behna Scheme that the CM had announced in March this year for women aged between 23 and 60 years, depositing Rs 1,250 in each beneficiary’s account every month (this was originally Rs 1,000 but was increased to Rs 1,250 in August. The Congress sees this as a desperate measure to win back the women vote). In response, the Kamal Nath campaign has announced its own slew of schemes for women including a Rs 3,000 monthly stipend, the offer of gas cylinders worth Rs 1,500 for Rs 500 each and 100 units of free electricity. Apart from the PM, the Home Minister is also campaigning in the state with his main focus being Chhindwara, which is Kamal Nath’s bastion and from where Nath is contesting. Cabinet Minister Bhupendra Yadav is also camping in Bhopal where he is managing the party’s backend operations at the BJP’s makeshift office (the old BJP office was dismantled and the new one which is rumoured to be state of the art along with a helipad is still under construction). Currently the BJP is operating out of the RTO building, and this is usually where the affable Yadav can be found, painstakingly making lists and notes with pen and paper as there is no computer around. The Congress too has its leaders camping in the city, with Supriya Shrinate, the chairperson of the party’s social media cell there as well, but the brunt of the campaign is being managed by Kamal Nath himself. It is his face on most of the hoardings and he is crisscrossing the state on a whirlwind campaign. With most psephologists giving the Congress an edge, a battle-scarred veteran like Nath knows that no battle is won till the last ballot is in.
ASSAM CM In MP
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma is in great demand in the Hindi heartland, with his rallies energising the party faithful. Addressing a late-night corner meeting in Bhopal recently, the Assam CM picked up the cue given by the PM earlier in the day and spoke at length about what he referred to as Kamal Nath and Digvijaya’s kapda-phaad (clothes tearing) friendship versus the Prime Minister’s stable leadership that had earned the country global plaudits. HBS also recalled that as a child whenever they were taught about BIMARU states (under-developed), Madhya Pradesh topped the list; but of late all he hears about are the roads and infrastructure built in the state under the Prime Minister’s leadership. And finally as a climax builder he brings in the war between Israel and Hamas, adds to it a reference to Babar and Aurangzeb, and well, you get the drift.