BJP’s Madhya Pradesh unit readies for bypoll battle
The date for elections has not been finalised, as all elections have been put on hold because of the pandemic.Updated: May 21, 2020 12:00 IST
As it begins preparations for the conduct of the bypolls in 24 assembly constituencies in Madhya Pradesh, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has decided to scale up efforts to reach to the workers and those involved in the farm sector that have been severely hit by the coronavirus pandemic and quell discord over ticket distribution.
The date for elections has not been finalised, as all elections have been put on hold because of the pandemic.
A senior state functionary said the party has been asked to reinforce its ongoing relief work to ensure that the challenges faced by the workers, many of whom struggled to make their way home, do not impact the electoral outcome.
To be sure, most of the workers are not registered as voters in the state and are natives of other states. “While work done on the ground is important, so is the perception. The high command does not want the government’s performance to be measured by a weak response to any challenge,” said the functionary quoted above.
The bypoll was necessitated after 22 MLAs resigned from the Congress and joined the BJP and two seats fell vacant after the demise of one BJP and one Congress MLA. As per the rules for filling up vacancies, elections have to be held within six months. But since the outbreak of the pandemic, election processes have been halted.
While the party is confident of winning with a comfortable majority whenever the bypoll is held, it has two major issues to cope with —discord within its ranks and the state’s response to the pandemic.
State unit chief, VD Sharma downplayed the reports of internal strife and said all decisions vis-à-vis ticket distribution will be taken by the parliamentary board of the party.
“It is true that the MLAs who quit the Congress have made a sacrifice, it cannot be overlooked, but the party’s central leadership will take the call on ticket distribution,” he said.
The BJP was back in the straddle with Shivraj Singh Chouhan as the chief minister in March when the Kamal Nath-led Congress government was voted out after 15 months in power following senior leader and former union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia and 22 MLAs walking out.
According a second functionary privy to the developments, the state unit is focusing on strengthening its outreach to help migrant workers and amplifying its social security programmes so that when it goes to people for seeking votes, it has a list of accomplishments to show.
“We are currently focusing only on the pandemic and meeting the needs of people. Not only are we setting up infrastructure in place to bring back those migrant workers who have moved out of MP but are also trying to encourage workers from other states to stay put,” said the functionary.
In the absence of physical meetings and gatherings, the state party unit has been making good use of technology to stay connected. Last week, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan held a meeting which had in attendance union minister Narendra Singh Tomar, party state president VD Sharma, general secretary (organisation) Suhas Bhagat and senior leader Jyotiraditya Scindia, to chalk out the election strategy.
On Saturday, several senior functionaries, including Sharma, spent time at camps set up by the party along the highways to provide food, aid and even footwear to the migrant labourers who were arriving.
Will the state’s response to the pandemic and the workers’ crisis determine the political outcome? Amitabh Kundu, a distinguished fellow at the New Delhi-based think tank Research and Information System for Developing Countries, said,” It is hard to say how much the voices of the workers will matter in the power corridors. But there is greater awareness now.”