Discussions on the second list were preceded by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s tactical decision to appoint three new ministers.
Retaining the momentum set by its first-mover strategy, the BJP is likely to announce next week its second list of 64 candidates for Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections, a move that could come much before the declaration of the election date by the Election Commission. The saffron party’s speed in declaring nominees has mounted pressure on the Opposition Congress whose ticket aspirants fear that their BJP rivals have got more time than them to woo voters.
The first list of 39 candidates in the state was announced on August 17 while discussions on the second list took place in New Delhi this week at the BJP headquarters at a meeting which was also attended by chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. The discussions on the second list of the BJP were preceded by Chouhan’s tactical decision to appoint three new ministers with an eye on setting right the social engineering dynamics in his Cabinet. The three ministers were—Rajendra Shukla, Gaurishankar Bisen and Rahul Lodhi. While Shukla is a Brahmin, Bisen and Lodhi belong to the OBC category. With the three inductions into the Cabinet, the Chouhan cabinet’s strength has now risen to 34 – still one short of the maximum limit of 35.
The ruling BJP and the Opposition Congress are also targeting about 50 lakh young voters whose names have been added to the voters list over the past five years. In comparison to 2018, the number of young voters has increased four times. The 2.6 crore women voters have also remained high on the agenda of both the parties.
Chief Electoral officer Anupam Rajan said that over the last five years 10 lakh young voters, on an average, were added annually to the voter list. “We are trying to encourage first-time voters to vote and trying to link up with them using QR code.”
Both the ruling BJP and the Congress are trying to attract the young voters by sharing their plans to increase employment opportunities in the state. Chief Minister Chouhan has come out with Seekho Kamao Yojana (Learn and earn scheme) and the Opposition is trying to highlight the issue of joblessness in the state as a big electoral plank.
Earlier last month, Chouhan transferred Rs 207 crore to the bank accounts of almost 4.60 lakh students for purchasing bicycles. On August 17, Chouhan also performed the bhoomi pujan of the CM Rise Government Mahatma Gandhi Higher Secondary School building which is to be constructed at the cost of Rs 81.12 crore at BHEL (Barkheda) Bhopal.
“Access to quality education is the right of children of poor, lower middle class and middle-class families. The CM Rise School scheme will offer opportunities to talented students in their vicinity,” he said. Apart from offering better employment to the youth, Chouhan has also tried hard to build bridges with women voters by promising 35% quota for women in government jobs. The raising of monthly allowance from Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,250 per month given to women under the Ladli Behna scheme is also being seen as his attempt to win over women voters ahead of the November-December Assembly polls.
Women voters constitute a key chunk of voters in 41 districts, out of the state’s total 52, where their population is more than men. There are 18 Assembly seats in the states where the women population is more than men. In all, there are 2.62 crore women voters in the state. The Ladli Behna scheme was launched in June and under the enhanced payout, 1.25 crore women in the state would start getting Rs 1,250 per month from October and the amount would gradually be increased to Rs 3,000 per month. The outlay for the Ladli Behna scheme is around Rs 19,800 crore. The ruling BJP’s Ladli Behna scheme appears to be a response to the recent announcement by the Congress to pay Rs 1,500 monthly aid to women. To counter the Congress’ Rs-500 cooking gas cylinder promise, the CM has promised to give cooking gas cylinder for Rs 450.
Countering the BJP government’s recent push to offer schemes for the youth, MP Congress leader K K Mishra said apart from wooing the youth with employment his party would raise the issue of corruption in the election. “There are thousands of examples of corruption across the state. They try to muzzle those who raise corruption issue, by filing cases against them,” he said. His party’s chief ministerial candidate Kamal Nath, in a message on social media site X said, “… this BJP government was changing colours daily to salvage its sinking ship and is doing precious little for people.”
As part of political upmanship ahead of the Assembly polls, the Congress has also promised to waive off loans of farmers and revive the old pension scheme. Meanwhile, the BJP has lined up a 10,000-km-long roadmap for five ‘Jan Ashirwad Yatras’ to be launched in the election-bound state on September 3 from Chitrakoot in Satna and end in Bhopal on 21 September. The campaign event will also see Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing party workers on 25 September.
State BJP chief V.D. Sharma said five panels have been formed to oversee the five yatras that shall pass through 210 of the state’s 230 Assembly seats. The BJP plans to conduct several public meetings along the entire route. Reaching out to doctors among the voters, the ruling BJP government announced that state medical college doctors’ salaries shall be revised upwards in keeping with slabs referred in the Seventh pay commission, with effect from 1 January 2016.