Over 70 per cent voters turned out in eight parliamentary constituencies, for penultimate round of voting in Madhya Pradesh. Top leaders of key rival parties, Congress and BJP, have now shifted focus on the last round campaign for the remaining eight seats in Nimar and Malwa region. Prime Minister Narendra Modi campaigned in Indore and Khandwa on Sunday.
While Rahul Gandhi visited the assembly segments of Shajapur on Sunday, Priyanka Gandhi is expected to cover Ujjain, Indore and Ratlam on Monday.
Besides Bhopal, the key seats that witnessed polling on Sunday were Morena, Bhind (SC), Gwalior, Guna, Sagar, Vidisha and Rajgarh in Chambal and Gwalior region. Senior Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia and union minister Narendra Singh Tomar are involved in Guna and Morena. The focus, however, remains on Bhopal due to the unusually hyped contest between Congress veteran Digvijaya Singh and BJP hothead Pragyasingh Thakur.
BJP was pushed out power in Madhya Pradesh after 15 years, not so much due to former chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s long incumbency but because of Modi government’s failures.
Knowing fully well that it could not effectively defend the Centre for its showing in the past four months since assembly elections RSS and BJP chose to invest in emotive issues like Hinudtva and nationalism. The nationalist frenzy built through Pulwama episode had subsided completely. BJP had to rebuild the campaign to divert public attention. The challenge got tougher as BJP had to drop many of its sitting MPs for non-performance or for failure to please RSS leadership. There is considerable resentment over selections among the party leaders and voters. For a month since the Congress nominated Digvijaya Singh to contest from Bhopal, the BJP kept deliberating over its options. Best bets like Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Uma Bharti or Narendra Singh Tomar could not have obfuscated core issues like farm distress, unemployment, sagging economy or spiralling prices. A terror accused on bail came to the party’s rescue. Pragya Singh has no accountability on political issues and can emote her way out of all crises.
The Congress has faced hurdles in fulfilling its election promises in the state due to the enforcement of election code less than three months after the assembly elections.
Despite their differences, the Congress leaders put up a united face and rallied behind Digvijaya Singh. Congress president Rahul Gandhi has certainly improved his stock if the response to his rallies is any indicator. Added to that is the charisma of Priyanka Gandhi, making her maiden trip to the state since joining politics formally. Victory in three heartland states has recharged the party cadre. The party is fully prepared to take on BJP in its Malwa-Nimar stronghold.
Bhopal campaign has touched bizarre levels with Digvijaya Singh participating in havans conducted for him by political sadhus like “Computer Baba. Less than a year ago, Namdeo Tyagi, who now goes by the name Computer Baba was a minister in the Shivraj Singh Chouhan ministry and fell out over denial of party tickets to some of his followers.
Singh’s campaign might have surprised his rational supporters who know his conservative ways. He refrained from attacking the Sadhvi who has already put off some supporters of her party. Any sharp response to her slander could prove counter-productive. Thakur’s selection reflects BJP’s despair. It is a shriller manifestation of the wider RSS scheme to polarise the Indian society through riots or other provocative acts. What surprises is the confidence of the BJP leaders in asserting that Hindus have already started believing that Muslims have had more than their share of liberties and all those who oppose Prime Minister Modi’s calumny are far from patriotic.
Digvijaya Singh’s campaign has been meticulously planned. He has issued a vision document with logically argued ways to fulfil promises. The Sadhvi’s has had little to offer by way of vision for development. But the party is keeping its fingers crossed on the outcome.