Congress national general secretary Digvijaya Singh’s ‘backdoor entry’ to Parliament couldn’t have come at a worse time for the party.
Once known as the main mover of politics in Madhya Pradesh, Singh has been given a Rajya Sabha ticket to end his self-imposed electoral ‘sanyas’ of 10 years when the Congress is supposed to salvage its pride in the Lok Sabha elections.
Before the 2003 assembly polls, the overconfident ‘Raja of Raghogarh’ had resolved that he would not accept any post for the next 10 years if the Congress couldn’t retain power. Of late, he went on record that he was willing to contest the Lok Sabha elections.
But that the ‘sanyas’ would end in such an anti-climax was not foreseen even by the rival BJP.
Yet, clashes within the Congress are far from over. Moments after Singh’s nomination, Sajjan Singh Verma, considered a lieutenant of Union minister Kamal Nath, objected to the party sending veterans, instead of young leaders, to the Rajya Sabha. This tug-of-war has further demoralised Congress cadres, and enthused the saffron brigade.
In contrast, the BJP is planning a clean sweep. After his third win in the assembly elections, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said Madhya Pradesh would try to give the maximum number of seats, percentage-wise, to BJP PM candidate Narendra Modi.
The BJP’s best in MP was in 2004, when it won 25 of the 29 seats. That time, the party rode a strong anti-Digvijaya wave that refused to subside even after the BJP’s impressive win in the November 2003 assembly polls to end Singh’s 10-year-long regime.
In the 2009 LS polls, Congress regained some ground and got 12 seats. The BJP went down by nine to 16. One seat went to Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party. Observers said the Congress could have won more, had it not messed up the ticket distribution process.
But BJP leaders feel 2009 is way in the past now. In the assembly polls last November, the BJP won 165 of the 230 seats, improving its 2008 tally by 22. The Congress was reduced to 58 from its 2008 figure of 71. Judging by this, leaders say the BJP will win 22-24 LS seats this time.
Unlike other states, politics in Madhya Pradesh revolves around the two major parties. Though there is hardly a ‘third alternative’, the Samajwadi Party and the BSP have influence in areas bordering Uttar Pradesh. The BSP, in particular, could spoil it for either of the two parties in seven to eight constituencies.
Although the BJP is relying heavily on Chouhan’s leadership, it’s also hardselling Modi’s life story. The Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, the BJP’s youth wing, recently hawked ‘Modi tea’ on the streets across the state. It plans to put up banners with Modi’s photos at the 50,000-odd tea stalls in villages.
The state government has also intensified its advertisement campaign to showcase achievements during the BJP’s 10-year rule. Workers’ meets are being held right down to the booth level.
The Congress campaign is yet to gain momentum. It was only in the second week of January that former union minister Arun Yadav was appointed state president to replace Kantilal Bhuria.
But the BJP, as of now, doesn’t fear the Congress as much as it fears the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which claims to have enrolled five lakh members in the state and is planning to contest most of the seats. Observers say the AAP would mainly damage the BJP’s prospects.
Permutations and combinations apart, selection of candidates holds the key for all parties. For instance, in 2009 the BJP lost at least six seats due to wrong selection of candidates and relying heavily on veterans. The Congress lost at least five seats due to wrong candidates.
But Vijesh Lunawat, a member of the state BJP election management committee, said, “Candidate selection is important. But people want to see Narendra Modi as the PM and dislodge the Congress from the Centre. They are fed up with inflation and corruption.”