DIWALI MILAN WITH THE PM
The BJP held its annual Diwali Milan on Friday, with the Prime Minister addressing the media. He stayed clear from politics but instead spoke about how the media and government could work together on developmental issues. He also voiced concern at the fact that so many journalists were dying young due to health constraints, and asked the proprietors present if they would work—along with governmental support—on better medical schemes for journos. But what struck a chord was the interaction afterwards as he walked through the crowd, stopping to exchange greetings with almost everyone, especially those who had covered the BJP since the days when he used to be a party general secretary, as well as obliging selfie seekers and exchanging a joke with some others. At the end of the event the PM had made a connect with almost everyone present there. It was political but he also managed to make it personal, for most walked away with his or her own little anecdote from the meet. And soon social media was awash with photographs and anecdotes as each journo posted about his or her interaction. So while he is still to hold a press conference, the PM earned a lot of goodwill simply by just reaching out.
The High Stakes Gwalior Chambal Region
While all eyes are on the larger battle for Madhya Pradesh, there is also a lot of interest in the Gwalior-Chambal region that has about 34 seats in the 230-strong Assembly. In 2013, the BJP won 20 seats here while in 2018, the Congress won 26. However, when Jyotiraditya Scindia defected to the BJP in 2020, he took 16 of these MLAs along with him. In the bypolls that followed as many as nine were able to retain their seats. But since then, there has been a lot of haggling for seats between the Congress exports and the old BJP hands. The undercurrents from this infighting could upset the BJP’s campaign in this region, not to mention the fact that two Chief Ministerial aspirants also come from this area—apart from Scindia himself (who cannot be ruled out even though he did not contest the Assembly elections), there is also the Union Cabinet Minister Narendra Singh Tomar who is said to be close to Amit Shah and also enjoys a good rapport with the current CM, Shivraj SIngh Chouhan. However, Tomar’s candidature has since come under a cloud, following the release of tapes that allegedly show his son in an incriminating light. While the government is yet to probe this matter, it does put a huge question mark over his candidature. In addition, there is the very acrimonious relationship between the Congress and Scindia himself, with Priyanka Gandhi Vadra making a scathing attack on the latter. Scindia too has since then responded. The Congress has not forgiven Scindia for “backstabbing” them and has gone all out to ensure that the BJP does not score in Scindia’s fiefdom. Knowing how high the stakes are, Scindia has been on ground campaigning. Because he knows all too well that if success is rewarded, then there is also a very high price for failure in the Modi-Shah BJP.
Last Minute Band-Aids
The Congress is somewhat pleasantly surprised with the way the Telangana campaign is going, with some psephologists even predicting a win for the party. Put this in perspective with the way things stood six months ago, when the BJP was inching towards the Number Two slot and the Congress falling to a third place. But much has changed since then, especially after the Congress won Karnataka. Also, as Yashwant Deshmukh, Founder and Chief Editor, C-Voter told NewsX on Cover Story, the voters in Telangana felt that the Modi government had gone slow in pursuing the ED cases against the ruling BRS and felt that they could not count on the BJP to oppose the BRS. Hence that vote went to the Congress. But still the Congress took a while to react to the change in the voters’ mood and only belatedly propped up PCC chief Revanth Reddy as its CM face, should the party win the state. Interestingly, Deshmukh feels that the BJP made the same mistake in Chhattisgarh where the fight against the ruling Congress was a lot closer than what the BJP had expected, but the party left it too late to prop up Raman Singh.