In another few hours, a substantial number of 5,60,58,521 voters in the state will troop out to the 64,523 polling booths in 230 constituencies of Madhya Pradesh to exercise a key franchise.
The result of the assembly polls 2023 in the Hindi heartland state will be extremely crucial for the two major parties – ruling BJP and opposition Congress- engaged in a largely bipolar and seemingly neck and neck contest.
As the elections come just six months ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, the mandate of the Madhya Pradesh people is also expected to be a reflection on the national level politics played by the two parties and signify a road ahead for them in the run up to the general elections.
A win for the BJP, which will give it a chance to form a government for the sixth time in the state considered to be a laboratory of saffron politics, will be a significant stamp of approval on the brand of politics that the party has adopted in the country. With the party putting a large stake on ‘brand Modi’ in the state; a win will underline the fact that the PM Narendra Modi-led BJP is firmly in control of the political narrative in the country and is not likely to be uprooted from power any time soon.
On the other hand, if the Congress manages to win the elections as indicated by a number of opinion polls, it will give a major booster to the grand old party and prove to be a major stepping stone towards a comeback in the national scenario. The win will not only bolster the political path adopted by the brother-sister duo of Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi with support of the hugely experienced party chief, Mallikarjun Kharge, it will also signify the acceptance of the Congress major poll planks like subsidy/cash assistance based welfare schemes, caste politics and above all triumph of the ‘mohabbat ki dukan’ (outlet of love) in a sharply divisive socio-political atmosphere.
A win in MP will also give a significant upper hand to the Congress in the INDIA alliance at national level.
Political future of state leaders at stake
Apart from the national scenario, the results will be extremely crucial for the personal prestige and future politics of some of the key Madhya Pradesh leaders like chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, union ministers Jyotiraditya Scindia and Narendra Singh Tomar and Congress ex-chief ministers Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh.
Despite the BJP pushing ‘brand Modi’ in Madhya Pradesh, the energetic four-times chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan did not leave any stone unturned to ensure a comeback for the BJP government in the state. Despite talks of him being sidelined by the BJP central leadership that decided to pit a number of union ministers and senior leaders – considered to be CM material - in the assembly polls arena, Chouhan held as many as 165 poll campaign meetings in 38 days since the announcement of the polls – trying to touch as many constituencies in the state as possible.
In these campaign meetings, Chouhan focused on displaying his personal bonding with the people of the state, especially the women. With his high-intensity campaign, the BJP warhorse also tried to show that he was still the best CM option for the saffron party if it manages to win.
However, if the BJP loses, the responsibility might be directly laid on the shoulders of Chouhan and put a big question mark on the political future of the longest serving BJP CM in the country.
The results of the crucial Gwalior-Chambal region with 34 seats will be watched keenly by the Jyotiraditya Scindia supporters as they will decide the political hold of the union minister in his area of influence. An overall BJP loss might also put a dent on the political clout of Scindia as his decision to cross over to the BJP with a string of important supporters is a big poll issue this time.
Tomar, who is the poll campaign committee chief of the BJP and also the party’s candidate from Dimni constituency, also has a lot at stake in the polls. Tomar is seen as one of the strongest alternatives for Chouhan for the CM chair and the party’s loss in the polls will hamper his political significance not only at state but central level, too. There have been talks that the union ministers and members of parliament in fray in the current assembly polls might not be given Lok Sabha polls tickets by the BJP irrespective of the poll results. The fact that videos of his son Devendra Singh allegedly engaged in deals worth crores of rupees have made rounds just before the polls isn’t helping Tomar at all.
Even higher political stakes are faced by the Congress veterans Nath and Singh. Nath will turn 77 this month and a loss in the current election for Congress with him at the helm might turn into the final nail in the political coffin for the ex-CM. It will also mean a whimpering end to the high-profile political career of a leader who has held crucial national level assignments for the best part of his life. His son Nakul Nath does not hold the father’s aura and might not turn as successful politically, experts feel.
As for Digvijaya Singh, who always faces the firing line from BJP as well as a section of Congress leaders, might also see his politics on decisive wane if the Congress is not able to win the assembly polls this time. Singh has been telling Congress workers repeatedly that this is a ‘do or die’ election for the party in Madhya Pradesh.
However, now the time for political maneuvers is over for the parties and its top leaders. It is now totally for the people of Madhya Pradesh to decide upon the future course and for the voters, their own developmental aspirations might be far higher on priority than the future of the politicians.