With Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh will have assembly elections by the end of the year. A few months later, the Lok Sabha elections will also be held, that is why these elections are being touted as the semi-finals for the Delhi throne. Nearly 10 per cent of the BJP strength in Lok Sabha (26/282), comes from Madhya Pradesh and the party is in power in the state for three consecutive terms.

While Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has been successful in creating an image of  ‘Vikas Purush’ the challenge this time is of saving the chair. The defeat in Karnataka has dented the invincibility of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah. Congress smells a chance and is pushing its limit to come back to power after 15 years of vanvas. Madhya Pradesh is important for the BJP’s scheme of things as the voters of the state contributed in the huge victory of 2014 general elections by giving almost 90% seats (27 of 29) to the BJP.

With less than a year left for the general elections, BJP does not want to take any kind of risk. Similarly Congress is not in the mood to slow down after taking lessons from 2013 defeat. The BJP believes that the rule of Mama (Shivraj) will continue, while the Congress hopes that Kamal Nath’s experience and Jyotiraditya Scindia’s youthful zeal will create  magic.

Both groups are trying hard to create a positive atmosphere 

Congress President Rahul Gandhi, on the anniversary of the Mandsaur shootout this year sharpened the attack on Shivraj for farmer suicides in the state and declared that the party will waive the debts of farmers if Congress is voted to power. This has put the BJP government on the back foot.

Shivraj has been opposing farm loan waivers on the plank that it is not the solution for agri distress and his government has done a lot for the farmers (-10% crop loans, bonus on crops, price insurance scheme etc.). Since BJP governments in Maharashtra and UP have implemented farm loan waiver scheme, this has put the Shivraj government in a quandary.

At the same time, after intense speculations BJP has decided to contest under Shivraj Singh Chouhan, while at the same time organization is likely to have a greater say in strategy formulation and ticket distribution. As per some reports, BJP is planning to deny tickets to several MLAs and ministers to reduce the impact of the anti-incumbency. BJP is trying to cash in on the popularity of Shivraj Singh Chouhan and the developmental work done by his government, whereas Congress is harping on farmer suicides, incidents of rape, vyapam and illegal mining. Despite efforts by both groups there is no hawa in favour of any party, probably because its too early in the game.

Congress is wooing Mayawati and other smaller parties to sail through

Congress (37%) is trying to form a mahagathbandhan (MGB) and talking to BSP (7%), SP and GGP (2%). In 2013, if this alliance was in place, MGB would have received 46% vote share compared to 45% of BJP and it would have been a tight contest.

The talks have not yet been frozen as there is a disagreement on the number of seats BSP should contest. There are also talks that the alliance could be limited to Vindhya and Chambal where BSP has good presence. Even if the alliance is formed, it will be a big challenge for these parties to transfer their base votes to each other. In the absence of alliance BSP could spoil the game of congress in as many as 50-60 seats.

Confused strategy of Congress

Congress is jumping from one issue to another and there is still confusion about its electoral strategy. First Congress called for a farmer protest from June 1 to 10, Rahul came on 6th, in between party carried a bullock cart protest against rising prices of fuel and raked up the issue of fake voters. Different groups are driving their own agenda and co-ordination is seen lacking. Infighting is rampant and BJP is reaping its benefits. “TINA” (There Is No Alternative) factor provides strength to BJP’s bid to power.

Its Raja vs Mama in MP

BJP is trying to make the contest a Mama (Shivraj) versus Raja (Diggi, Nath, Scindia) contest. BJP is projecting Mama as son of the soil, kisanputra, person with a humble background, messiah of the poor and downtrodden and claiming Congress is as a party of Rajas and Maharajs, its leaders born with a silver spoon having no clue about the plight of the people of the state.

Its also trying to make the contest apna versus paraya, claiming Kamal Nath is an outsider, with no real base in the state, outside his fiefdom (parliamentary constituency of Chhindwara).  Its also trying to make the contest naamdar (Scindia) versus kaamdaar (Shivraj).

The elections for the 15th Assembly will be the most interesting for the Madhya Pradesh assembly that came into existence on November 1, 1956.