Test for Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Jyotiraditya Scindia
Along with Bihar, the stakes are high for the BJP in the byelections to 28 Assembly constituencies in Madhya Pradesh that will decide the survival and stability of the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government.
In Bihar, the central party has hurled all its strength to retain an NDA government, preferably led by the BJP, and in Madhya Pradesh the state leadership has been asked to go to any extent to ensure victory on at least half of the 28 seats.
The BJP has 107 MLAs in the 230-member Assembly. It needs at least nine more to cross the halfway mark. The party, however, would like to win at least half of the 28 seats to have a comfortable majority and reduce dependence on Independents and BSP MLAs.
The bypolls in Madhya Pradesh are scheduled for November 3 and counting of votes will take place along with Bihar on November 10.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is campaigning in Bihar but not Madhya Pradesh since he wants to stick to his record of not canvassing in bypolls. So, it’s entirely up to the state leadership, particularly chief minister Shivraj, to perform.
Polls are being held on seats that were won by the Congress in the November 2018 Assembly elections. Later these MLAs resigned and joined the BJP. This change of colour by the Congress MLAs had led to the collapse of the Kamal Nath government in March this year.
Most of the BJP candidates on these seats are the ones who had contested as Congress nominees two years ago.
An acrimonious campaign is on in Madhya Pradesh with Congress-turned-BJP leader Jyotiraditya Scindia pitted against the stalwart Congress duo Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh.
More than half of the 28 seats are located in Jyotiraditya’s area of influence — Gwalior-Chambal region — and so his worth is also at stake along Shivraj.
The BJP’s performance would also play a role in deciding what ministry the former Congress leader gets in the Modi government.
Jyotiraditya’s rebellion had propelled the bunch of Congress MLAs to embrace the BJP along with him to bring down the Congress government.
Both Kamal Nath and Digvijaya are accusing Jyotiraditya of “betrayal” and “trading” with the BJP and urging the voters to teach him a lesson.
In the middle of this fight between the old warhorses of the Congress versus a former young face of the party, Jyotiraditya, Shivraj is campaigning tirelessly to prove to the current party regime that his popularity was intact.
Shivraj, who is into his fourth term as the chief minister, is widely believed to be not the first choice of the Modi-Shah combine and he has to prove his worth to keep ticking.
The Congress has 88 MLAs and would have to win all the seats to cross the halfway mark, a daunting task.
The Congress leadership, however, wants to teach a lesson to Jyotiraditya by winning a good number of the seats.
The Congress is also trying hard to win 20-21 seats that will help them cross the BJP’s individual tally and then it can put the Independents into play.