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Madhya Pradesh polls: Rahul Gandhi to start campaign in BJP bastion

The Congress hopes to make the most of the resentment and anger among farmers of Malwa-Nimad region.

Madhya Pradesh Elections 2018 Updated: Oct 28, 2018 23:04 IST
Hindustan Times, Bhopal
Rahul Gandhi,Madhya Pradesh polls,Malwa
Congress president Rahul Gandhi with party leaders Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia in Chitrakoot in Madhya Pradesh. (HT Photo)

Congress president Rahul Gandhi would arrive in Madhya Pradesh’s Malwa-Nimad region on Monday for two-day election campaign as the party hopes to make inroads into the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s bastion for over a decade.

Six farmers were killed in police firing and lathi charge in the region on June 6 last year during a farmers’ agitation for higher prices for their produce. The Congress hopes to make the most of the resentment and anger among the region’s farmers.

The region accounts for the state’s 66 out of the total 230 assembly seats. They include 22 seats reserved for scheduled tribes (STs) and 9 for scheduled castes (SCs). The BJP had swept the region in 2013 winning 56 assembly seats. The Congress had managed just nine while the remaining seat went to an independent candidate. The BJP won the region’s 84% seats including 17 reserved for STs and 9 for SCs.

Two Congress leaders, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the Congress has a favourable situation in the region after the agitation but has to strive hard to convert the resentment in the region into votes.

One of them said there was a strong wave in the BJP’s favour in 2013 because of chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and then prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. He said the people are now disillusioned with the state government and there was no Modi wave anymore. “This happens to be the most favourable time for the party in the elections.”

The second leader said their downfall began in the 2003 assembly elections with the disenchantment of STs with the then Congress government.

“Though Congress had won as many as 12 seats from this region in 2003 out of its total 38 seats in the state, it could only win two ST seats. Later, in 2008, the party made a comeback and won 24 seats in the region including 11 seats reserved for STs and 4 for SCs. But BJP managed to win 41 seats in the region including 11 ST seats and 5 SC seats.”

State Congress media in-charge Shobha Oza said the Congress’s prospects would increase not only in this region but the entire state to form its government after Gandhi’s visit. “The BJP government has betrayed every section of society in the past 15 years.”

State BJP spokesman Rajneesh Agrawal said their government has worked “tirelessly” for the region’s development.

“Recently, he (Chouhan) announced an expressway between Indore and Bhopal which will have industrial corridors along the way. Several schemes were launched for farmers, tribals, and others. That is why they have stood by the BJP for the past 15 years.”

Political analyst Yogesh Rathore said the parties will have to address grievances and aspirations with a holistic approach if they wish to win the confidence of the region’s people. “For instance, the Narmada River is the region’s lifeline.”

First Published: Oct 28, 2018 20:26 IST