For the BJP, victories in the three Hindi heartland states will add to the saffron party’s momentum.The Congress, on the other hand, will hope to win again. The grand old party knows from past experience that victories in these states may not mean much when it comes to the Lok Sabha elections. However, it may help the party consolidate its position in the opposition space.
Five years back in 2018, the Congress had defeated the BJP in all the three states in assembly elections but still got decimated a few months later in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The grand old party will hope that its new weapons of poll guarantees, that helped it win Karnataka, and demand for caste census will help boost its poll prospects.
Assembly elections in Mizoram, Chhattisgarh, MP, Rajasthan and Telangana: Watch the complete schedule
Here’s a look at how the two parties are placed in the three states:
Let’s start with Madhya Pradesh. In 2018, the Congress won 114 seats in the state against the BJP’s 109. Kamal Nath formed the government with the support of independents and some smaller parties. However, the Congress government was short-lived and collapsed in March 2020 after senior leader Jyotiraditya Scindia revolted against the party. Jyotiraditya eventually joined the BJP alongwith his supporters. His rebellion helped the BJP return to power in the state and Shivraj Singh Chouhan once again became the chief minister.
The BJP has been in power in the state since 2003, except for the 18 months between 2018 and 2020. The party will have to battle incumbency and also do some deft balancing to accommodate the Congress leaders who joined along with Jyotiraditya. The saffron party has announced to field several MPs to counter any possible incumbency against the state leadership. It has also taken a head-start by announcing candidates for 136 seats. Both Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Scindia are confident of retaining power in the state. The chief minister described the next month’s assembly elections as a battle of ideologies and appealed to people to vote in large numbers with enthusiasm.
The Congress, on the other hand, is eager to take revenge. Kamal Nath, who is likely to head the Congress campaign, on Monday said people will teach a lesson to the “abductors of democracy” in Madhya Pradesh assembly polls next month.
“Today poll dates were announced about which everyone was waiting for many years. It will be the day for teaching a lesson to those who abducted democracy and establishing the government of truth in the state,” Kamal Nath said after EC announced election dates for the state. The grand old party is likely to bank on a slew of poll guarantees and will also pitch for caste census.
The Congress will also have to contend with the presence of Aam Aadmi Party in the fray. The two are allies at the national level, but the AAP has already announced candidates for several seats. Arvind Kejriwal’s party may not make much impact, but it could end up hurting the Congress on some seats.
Overall, the Congress seems to have an edge. However, how much it can capitalize on that we would get to know on December 3, when the votes are counted.
In Rajasthan, the Congress faces a tough challenge. And this was admitted by none other than party’s de facto boss – Rahul Gandhi. Asked about the party’s chances in the state last month, Rahul Gandhi had said “there is a “very close” contest in Rajasthan which the party believes it will win.”
The Congress will have to buck anti-incumbency, the trend of alternating governments and also infighting in the state. Chief minister Ashok Gehlot has launched a well-planned outreach to connect with the voters and reach out to them. He has also launched a slew of welfare schemes like – Rs 25-lakh medical insurance, MGNREGA-like employment scheme for urban areas, cooking gas cylinders at Rs 500 for the Ujjwala scheme beneficiaries, smartphones for women and a social security allowance.
However, his open running feud with his former deputy Sachin Pilot could play a spoilsport. Pilot had raised questions related to paper leaks. A sacked minister had claim that he has a “red diary” that carries evidence of financial irregularities by the government.
The BJP, on the other hand, will be eyeing a return in the state. Like in Madhya Pradesh, the party has fielded several MPs to contest the assembly elections. The first list of 41 candidates has names of 7 MPs. However, BJP’s biggest challenge will be how it handles former chief minister Vasundhara Raje. Raje still hold considerable clout in the state and her supporters would want her projected as the party’s CM face.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already addressed a series of rallies in the state, including one in Gehlot’s own constituency, Sardarpura in Jodhpur. In Jodhpur, he brought up last year’s communal violence in the district and implied that the Gehlot government has been going soft on its “vote bank”, an indirect reference to Muslim voters.
“Appeasement” and the BJP’s Hindutva appeal could play a major role in the election fought by the party, with PM Modi leading the charge.
The other issues which the BJP will use to attack Gehlot are corruption and law and order in the state.
The presence of Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM on the Rajasthan poll scene could split the Muslim vote in some constituencies. Similarly, newly formed Bhartiya Adivasi too can make it tougher for the party in the tribal belt.
In Chhattisgarh, the BJP has a tough task at hand. In the 2018 assembly polls, the BJP finished a distant second in the state winning only 15 of the 90 seats. Senior BJP leader and former BJP chief minister Raman Singh is confident that people of the state will vote for change.
The BJP is targeting the Congress government over alleged scams, politics of appeasement and religious “conversions”. It is trying hard to corner the Congress over issues of corruption and “misrule”.
The saffron outfit is banking heavily on the popularity and mass appeal of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to turn the tide in its favour.
During his four rallies in the last three months, PM Modi has targeted the Congress over corruption and alleged scams in every sector and government schemes, including coal, liquor, cow dung procurement and District Mineral Foundation (DMF) fund utilization, among others.
The Congress, which won 68 out of 90 seats in 2018, is banking heavily on the popularity of chief minister Bhupesh Baghel, who has a significant hold over OBC and rural voters. The grand old party also hopes to gain from government’s welfare schemes focused on farmers, tribals and the poor.
The Congress hopes to gain from Chhattisgarh government’s direct cash transfer schemes covering farmers, landless labourers, unemployed youths and cattle owners.
The party’s move to appoint senior leader T S Singh Deo, who was locked in a turf war with Baghel for months, as deputy CM in June and induct MLA Mohan Markam in the cabinet after replacing him as the Chhattisgarh PCC president in July were seen as attempts to stem infighting in the state unit and prepare it for the polls.
The entry of Sarva Adivasi Samaj, an umbrella body of tribal organisations, in the poll arena has turned the contest interesting, with political observers saying it may damage the ruling party’s prospects in rural and tribal pockets. The Sarva Adivasi Samaj (SAS) has floated a political outfit named ‘Hamar Raj’ and announced it will field candidates on 50 seats, including all the 29 segments reserved for Scheduled Tribe (ST) communities. Tribal communities comprise about 32 per cent of the state’s population.
The Congress also faces strong challenge from Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP, who has announced candidates for 22 seats.