Madhya Pradesh has one of the highest SC-ST population in India. It is evident that, this large section plays an important role in state politics too. This community has the power to make or break any government.
The share of these communities in the total population of the state is 37%, in which is SC 16% and ST 21%.
Out of the total 51 districts, 19 districts have a tribal majority.
The tribal community has high population in Jhabua, Barwani, Dindewari, Mandla and Dhar districts, whereas Ujjain, Sehore, Chhatarpur, Datia, Tikamgarh are high population SC districts.
In 137 assembly constituencies of MP, the number of SC-ST voters is more than 20 per cent. This number is more than half of the total number of seats (230) in the assembly.
SC-ST the traditional Congress voter has shifted to the BJP in recent polls
The state’s electoral politics has revolved around the BJP and Congress. Caste based political parties such as Kanshiram’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Gondwana Ganatpantra Party (GGP) have entered the fray and tried to make the contest multi-party. However, both the parties have not been able to extend their influence beyond their caste groups. BSP has decent support among SC voters, specially “Jatavs“ which comprise of 47% of SC population, Mayawati herself belongs to this sub-caste. But the party has failed to make traction among ST voters. Among ST’s, Bhil comprise of 40% and Gond 32%. GGP support is confined to the Gond sub-caste.
SC-ST community can play the role of King Maker in this election
The consolidation of votes of this community in favor of a party, propels it to form the government in the state. If we talk about history, there has been a tough competition between Congress and BJP for this vote bank. In 2003 and 2008 while Congress received higher support of SC-STs, in 2013 state elections as well as 2014 Lok Sabha elections, BJP has taken the lead among these voters.
However, as the vote share of BJP has registered an increase from the community, its share of seats in the reserved seats has declined.
The magic figure of the majority in the assembly is 116. Total 82 seats are reserved, 35 seats for SC candidates and 47 for ST. This figure is only 34 seats less than the majority. In such a scenario, for both the BJP and the Congress, the performance of the party in these reserved seats is of great significance.
In 2003 BJP won 30 SC reserved seats, 25 in 2008 and 28 seats in 2013. In 2013, BSP won 3 seats. BJP won 40 seats out of ST reserved seats in 2003, 29 in 2008 and 31 in 2013.
Parties formulating strategy to woo the SC-ST community
Along with the ruling BJP, opposition Congress is also involved in formulating an electoral strategy around SC-ST community. BJP is trying to woo the SC-ST voters through its ambitious Mukhyamantri Jan Kalyan Yojana (Sambal). Central government’s decision to nullify the Supreme Court judgement by amending the SC-ST Act is also expected to earn it some brownie points. Congress is also trying to restore its traditional vote bank. Its efforts to form an alliance with the BSP and GGP is part of the strategy.
If Congress and BSP had contested together as alliance partners in 2013 elections, they would have won 14 out of 35 seats reserved for the SCs, twice their current combined tally. (BJP won 28 seats, whereas Congress 4 and BSP 3 seats in 2013).
In Madhya Pradesh, whoever gets 45% vote share is assured of victory. It would not be wrong to say that SC-ST voters who have a 37% population are in a situation to determine who forms the government in the state. Who will win this battleground, largely depends on which way the SC-ST voters swing. Along with the political parties, everyone is watching their step!