The upcoming Madhya Pradesh assembly election, scheduled for November 17th, is witnessing active campaigns from both the BJP and Congress, with prominent leaders such as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, Rahul Gandhi, and Priyanka Gandhi leading their respective parties. The BJP aims to maintain its current political power, while the Congress is determined to secure victory.
It’s noteworthy that in the last assembly election, Congress won 114 seats, forming a government that lasted less than two years due to Jyotiraditya Scindia‘s defection to the BJP, resulting in the BJP taking charge with Shivraj Singh Chauhan as the Chief Minister.
This election presents several challenges. During the campaign, the BJP is sidelining the incumbent Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan, a significant political move. The Congress is banking on former Chief Minister Kamal Nath as the face of their campaign for the position of Chief Minister. Notably, the BJP has not yet announced its official chief ministerial candidate.
Several critical issues are shaping the electoral landscape. Anti-incumbency sentiment against the long-standing BJP government, high unemployment rates, and the plight of farmers are key concerns. The BJP is utilizing initiatives like the “Ladli Behna Yojana” and the charisma of Prime Minister Modi, while the Congress is emphasizing the shortcomings of the Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led government.
To counter anti-incumbency, the BJP has strategically nominated central leaders as candidates for the assembly elections. Notable figures include Kailash Vijayvargiya, Narendra Singh Tomar, Prahlad Singh Patel, Faggan Singh Kulaste, Rakesh Sinha, Ganesh Singh, and Riti Pathak.
For a better understanding of the assembly election, it’s essential to grasp the state’s demography. Madhya Pradesh is divided into six regions, including Malwa Nimar, Bundelkhand, Vindhya, Mahakaushal, and Madhya Bharat. The state has 52 districts, with 230 Legislative Assembly constituencies.
Malwa – Nimar Region:
Malwa-Nimar, comprising 15 districts with 66 Assembly Constituencies, saw a significant political shift in the 2018 assembly elections. In 2013, the BJP secured 56 seats, while the Congress won only 9, with one independent candidate. However, in 2018, the BJP’s seats dropped to 28, while the Congress gained momentum with 35 seats, largely due to several factors.
Farmers’ support shifted towards the Congress, ignited by protests in Mandsaur district in 2017 demanding better minimum prices for their produce. These protests, while not translating into direct electoral success for the Congress in Mandsaur, had a cascading effect across the entire Malwa-Nimar region. Out of the 15 districts, 9 experienced farmer protests, contributing to the Congress’s victory.
Another significant factor was the transition of tribal votes from the BJP to the Congress. Of the 66 seats in this region, 22 are reserved for Scheduled Tribes. In 2018, the Congress won 14 of these reserved seats, while the BJP secured only seven. This marked a notable departure from the 2013 elections when the BJP claimed 16 reserved seats, compared to the Congress’s five.
In the upcoming assembly election, the BJP is rallying support by nominating heavyweight leader Kailash Vijayvargiya, the BJP’s General Secretary, as a candidate from the Indore 1 assembly constituency. Vijayvargiya carries considerable influence not only in the Malwa region but also in the Indore sub-division, given his past electoral victories from different constituencies within the Indore district.
The Congress is determined to replicate its 2018 success in this region. Their ambitious “Bharat Jodo Yatra” has traversed through Malwa-Nimar, and they are pinning their hopes on its impact. Additionally, Congress has promised a loan waiver as part of their campaign to appeal to farmers and tribal communities. Both the BJP and Congress are actively vying for the support of these crucial demographics in the upcoming election.
|Malwa Nimar Region (Total Seats – 66)|
The Bundelkhand Region, encompassing six districts – Sagar, Chhatarpur, Damoh, Tikamgarh, Panna, and Niwari, is home to 26 Assembly Constituencies (ACs).
In the 2013 assembly elections, the BJP secured a dominant position with 20 out of 26 seats, while the Congress managed to win 6 seats. However, in the 2018 assembly elections, the political landscape shifted. The BJP’s seat count decreased to 14, losing 6 seats compared to 2013, while the Congress gained ground with 10 seats. Additionally, the Uttar Pradesh-based Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) each won one seat in this region.
Bundelkhand shares its border with Uttar Pradesh, attracting the interest of regional outfits like the SP and BSP, which also participate in elections in this region. The population here is predominantly comprised of the OBC community, including groups such as Yadavs, Kurmis, Lodhis, Kaachis, and Dheemars. Scheduled Castes and Brahmins also constitute a significant portion of the population, often leaning towards the BJP. The region’s historical significance, notably as the birthplace of former Chief Minister Uma Bharti from Tikamgarh district, positions the BJP advantageously.
Nonetheless, the Congress has made efforts to appeal to voters in this region. During the UPA government in 2008, a substantial allocation of approximately 7,000 crore rupees was made, although its impact on the ground was limited. The BJP is leveraging the “Ladli Behna Scheme” to address economic challenges in this impoverished area, potentially providing an advantage in the upcoming assembly elections. In contrast, the Congress has promised to conduct a “Caste census,” recognizing the region’s diverse caste demographics.
Beyond the BJP and Congress, regional players like the SP and BSP are also eyeing this region to maintain their relevance in Madhya Pradesh politics, making it a politically significant battleground in the upcoming elections.
|Bundelkhand Region (Total Seats – 26)|
Gawalior- Chambal region:
The Gwalior-Chambal region comprises eight districts, including Gwalior, Shivpuri, Guna, Ashoknagar, Datia, Morena, Bhind, and Sheopur, with a total of 34 Assembly Constituencies (ACs).
In the 2013 assembly election, the BJP secured 20 seats, while the Congress won 12 seats, and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) managed to win 2 seats. However, in the 2018 assembly elections, the BJP’s seat count decreased to 7 compared to the 20 seats in 2013, whereas the Congress gained momentum by winning 26 seats out of the 34 assembly constituencies. The BSP’s seats also reduced to 1 compared to the 2 seats won in the 2013 assembly election.
The Gwalior-Chambal region presents a litmus test for senior BJP leader Jyotiraditya Scindia. While the Congress has traditionally been strong in this region, Scindia’s exit from the party makes it interesting to see how the Congress performs in this area. Leading up to the upcoming assembly elections, the BJP is facing backlash from Scindia’s supporters who did not receive party tickets. Notably, supporters such as O.P.S. Bhadoria, Munnalal Goyal, Ranvir Jatav, and Girraj Dandotiya, who were denied tickets, might internally support Congress in the upcoming elections.
However, the Congress is making efforts to win over voters in this region by portraying Jyotiraditya Scindia as someone who betrayed the people of the region. The election results will reveal whether the Congress succeeds in its efforts or if Scindia still holds influence in this region.
|Gwalior – Chambal Region (Total Seats – 34)|
The Vindhya region comprises seven districts, namely Rewa, Satna, Sidhi, Singrauli, Shahdol, Anuppur, and Umaria, with a total of 30 Assembly Constituencies (ACs).
In the 2013 assembly election, the BJP secured 16 seats, while the Congress won 12 seats, and the BSP managed to win 2 seats. However, in the 2018 assembly elections, the BJP increased its seat count by 8, securing 24 seats. In contrast, the Congress’s seat share decreased to 6 from its 2013 tally of 12, and the BSP lost both of its seats.
For several decades, the BJP has maintained a strong presence in this region, while the Congress has faced challenges. The Vindhya region shares a border with Uttar Pradesh, and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has also established a notable presence. In a significant historical milestone, Mayawati-led BSP won a Lok Sabha seat from this region in 1991, owing to the significant Dalit community population in the area.
To enhance their party’s performance, the BJP has fielded two sitting Lok Sabha MPs in the Vindhya region for the assembly polls: Riti Pathak from Sidhi and Ganesh Singh from Satna. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is actively focusing on the Vindhya region to make inroads into the Madhya Pradesh Assembly. AAP’s state unit chief, Rani Agrawal, secured the first mayoral seat in MP from Singrauli, which falls within this region. However, the AAP’s entry into the MP election landscape is perceived as potentially benefiting the BJP, as it is expected to dent the Congress’s vote share in this region.
|Vindhya Region (Total Seats – 30)|
Madhya Bharat Region:
The Madhya Bharat region encompasses eight districts, including Rajgarh, Vidisha, Bhopal, Sehore, Raisen, Narmadapuram, Betul, and Harda, with a total of 36 Assembly Constituencies (ACs).
In the 2013 assembly election, the BJP secured 29 seats out of 36, while the Congress won 6 seats, and the BSP claimed 1 seat. However, in the 2018 assembly election, the BJP’s seat share decreased to 23 seats compared to the 29 seats in the 2013 assembly election, while the Congress increased its seat share to 13 from 6 seats.
The BJP maintains its strength in this region, primarily because Shivraj Singh Chouhan hails from this area. Furthermore, most of the districts in this region are adjacent to the capital city, Bhopal. Key ministers like Prabhuram Chaudhary and Vishwas Kailash Sarang also originate from this region. Chief Minister Chouhan’s initiatives, such as establishing the famous Maa Vindhyavasini Beejasan Devi Shaktipeeth Salkanpur as a divine abode in Sehore district and transforming the Hanuman Temple of Khedapati in Bhopal into Hanuman Mahalok, have had a noticeable impact, bolstering the BJP’s presence.
The Congress, on the other hand, is grappling with internal rebellion from its party leaders, which may have repercussions on its electoral prospects in the upcoming assembly elections.
|Madhya Bharat Region: (Total Seats – 36)|
The Mahakaushal region, encompassing eight districts – Jabalpur, Katni, Dindori, Mandla, Narsinghpur, Balaghat, Seoni, and Chhindwara, is home to 38 Vidhan Sabha seats.
In the 2013 assembly elections, the BJP secured 24 seats, while the Congress won 13 seats, and the BSP claimed 1 seat. However, in the 2018 assembly elections, the political landscape witnessed a shift. The BJP’s seat count decreased from 24 to 13 seats, while the Congress made significant gains, increasing from 13 seats to 24, with the BSP maintaining its single seat.
The Mahakaushal region presents a stronghold for the Congress, primarily due to the strong presence of Kamal Nath, who is himself an MLA from the Chhindwara assembly and wields influence across this region. The demographics in this region are characterized by communities such as Lodi, Patel, Kurmi, Gond, and tribals.
To bolster their position in the upcoming assembly elections, the BJP has strategically fielded Union Minister Prahlad Singh Patel from the Narsinghpur constituency. Patel belongs to the Lodhi community, and this move is aimed at garnering support from the Lodhi community in the region. Another significant candidate chosen by the BJP is Union Minister Faggan Singh Kulaste, who is contesting from the Niwas assembly constituency in Mandla district. The Gond community appears to be favouring the BJP in this region, and the party is hopeful that their seat share will increase in the upcoming assembly elections.
Despite the Congress’s strong presence in the Mahakaushal region, the BJP is making strategic efforts to challenge its dominance and improve its electoral performance in this region.
|Mahakaushal Region: (Total Seats – 36)|
Aamir Shakil is an independent journalist covering national and international affairs. Praveen Chauhan is a political researcher with ETG Research, which has covered elections in over 18 states over the past 5 years. He has been spearheading teams to assess the voting pattern and sentiments associated with each state during the election season.