MP: Assembly by-polls a test of popularity for Shivraj Singh Chouhan

  • Vijay Swaroop, Hindustan Times, Indore
  • Updated: Aug 21, 2014 14:33 IST

The by-polls for three assembly seats may or may not hold much meaning for the ruling BJP, which is sitting pretty with two-thirds majority in the state assembly. However, many see these elections as a sort of referendum on chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan's popularity that took a beating because of the recent exam and recruitment scam.

After so many years, it is for the first time that Chouhan's personal integrity has been put to test and the opposition has an issue with which to corner him.

Two of the seats, Agar and Bahoriband, are held by the BJP, while the Congress sitting MLA from Vijayaraghogarh defected to the ruling party. The saffron party has a total of 163 seats in the 230- member assembly against Congress' 57.

The confidence such numbers evokes makes BJP state spokesperson Dr Hitesh Bajpai to believe that the scams won't affect the poll results.

"It was chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan who ordered an inquiry into the scam. Moreover, the scam was discussed on the floor of the house. There is nothing left that can be done and already an investigation under high court's supervision is on," Bajpai added.

But Congress spokesperson KK Mishra, the most vocal speaker on the expose, said, "The government stands exposed and it will help Congress in the by-polls."

"We have all but established that a scam of such proportions could not have taken place without the involvement of the chief minister. We will come out with more evidence in days to come," said Mishra.

No wonder, to blunt the Congress onslaught, Chouhan helmed electioneering in these three seats himself, like in the previous assembly elections, and addressed a series of public meetings.

The chief minister, who took over reins of the state on 29 November 2005, had faced a Congress pre-poll attack during the 2013 assembly elections too.

Before the campaign gained heat, the Congress released a "charge sheet" against the government, listing 17 scams that allegedly took place in Chouhan's second term and involved more than Rs 1.46 trillion.

But the allegations made little impact on Chouhan who has ensured that his appeal is broad-based, targetting minority communities, the young, women, the poor, while keeping the RSS happy.

However, whether the MPPEB and MPPSC scams, by far the biggest in the state's history, will translate into people's disenchantment this time around remains to be seen.

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