Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh) [India]: Voting for Madhya Pradesh’s all 230 assembly seats began at 7 a.m. today. The voters can cast their ballots until 6 p.m., except in the Baihar, Lanji, and Parswara assembly seats of Balaghat district and some booths in Mandla and Dindori districts, where voting will be held until 3 p.m.
BJP is seeking to retain power in the state where it has ruled for almost 18 of the past 20 years and Congress is keen to oust the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government.
The webcasting facility has been made available at about 42,000 polling stations. Nearly 700 companies of the central forces and two lakh police personnel of the state have been deployed for security during the poll.
The election will decide the electoral fate of over 2,500 candidates.
Nearly 5.59 crore voters are eligible to exercise their franchise. It includes 2.87 crore male and 2.71 crore women voters.
There are over 5,000 booths run by women and 183 polling stations run by the disabled, officials said.
The polls, coming nearly six months ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, are crucial for both the BJP and Congress for various reasons.
The BJP apparently has gone for ‘collective leadership’ and has not projected Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan as its clear choice for the chief ministerial post but there is no ambiguity in the Congress with Kamal Nath as its clear choice for the post.
A reason for the BJP banking on collective leadership is the perceived ‘fatigue factor’ with the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government. Though Shivraj Singh Chouhan may not be personally facing anti-incumbency, there have been reports of a yearning for change among sections of the population.
The BJP has made adjustments to its strategy after the outcome of the Karnataka polls, which saw Congress score a handsome victory. Some of the BJP’s candidates are in their seventies. Also, the party has fielded three Union ministers, four MPs and one national general secretary who are seen as chief ministerial candidates.
The party is heavily relying on the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has addressed rallies in the state and targeted the Congress. Congress leaders have tried to make ‘corruption’ and ‘unemployment’, ‘ price rises,’ and ‘problems of farmers’ big election issues.
Bahujan Samaj Party, Aam Aadmi Party and Samajwadi Party are also in the fray in the Hindi heartland state and political parties have made special efforts to woo OBCs, Dalits, women, tribals and youth, who will decide the election.
The election is also crucial for Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia, who led 22 Congress MLAs to join the BJP in 2020 to bring down the 15-month-old Kamal Nath government. Though Scindia is not in the fray, many of his loyalists have been given tickets by the BJP, and there is a tussle with the BJP’s old guard over ticket distribution on some seats.
The Congress won handsomely in the Gwalior-Chambal region in the previous polls and it remains to be seen how many seats it can win with Scindia now in the BJP.
A sizeable section of the state’s population is engaged in farming and political parties have made promises to woo the community. The agriculture sector has seen good growth in Madhya Pradesh in the past few years.
Shivraj Singh Chouhan is relying heavily on the Ladli Behna Yojana, under which Rs 1250 are being transferred monthly to eligible women from poor families.
While the Congress has described it an election sop, implemented months before the assembly polls, the BJP leaders have said that it is in line with the party’s work for empowering women. Congress has made a slew of promises including Old Pension Scheme, caste census, Nari Samman Nidhi of Rs 1500 per month to women, Rs 25 lakh health insurance for residents of the state and 27 per cent reservation for OBCs in government services in its poll manifesto for Madhya Pradesh.
The party has also promised to continue Jai Kisan Agricultural Loan Waiver Scheme to waive off farmers’ debt up to Rs 2 lakh besides providing domestic gas cylinders at Rs 500 and making school education free in the state.
‘Madhya Pradesh is the state of farmers. Congress government will buy paddy at Rs 2500 per quintal, we will buy wheat at Rs 2600 per quintal,’ Kamal Nath said as the party released the manifesto last month.
Under the Indira Grih Jyoti Yojana, 100 units of electricity will be provided free and subsequent 200 units will be provided at half the rate, the party said. It promised to enact the ‘Right to Health’ law.
The party promised 27 per cent reservation to OBCs (Other Backward Classes) in government services and schemes and setting up a skill upgradation university in the name of Saint Shiromani Ravidas in Sagar.
The party promised implementation of the PESA Act in tribal areas apart from promising some other measures for the tribal population in the state. Congress promised to start Nandini Godhan Yojana under which cow dung will be bought at the rate of Rs 2 a kg.
Major promises for the youth include a law for government recruitment and filling two lakh government posts. The party said it will fill vacancies pending for the past 18 years including teachers, patwaris, forest guards, nurses and also in the police.
Under the Yuva Swabhiman Scheme, financial assistance ranging from Rs 1500 to Rs 3000 a month will be provided to needy educated unemployed youth for two years. To match BJP’s Ladli Laxmi Yojana, the Congress has promised Meri Bitiya Rani Yojana.
The BJP has also made several promises including concrete homes for Ladli Behna beneficiaries, a hike in financial assistance under the Ladli Laxmi scheme, free education to girls from below poverty line (BPL) families, LPG cylinders at Rs 450 to Ladli Behna Yojana and Ujjwala beneficiaries, opening new medical and engineering colleges and welfare board for gig workers.
With farmers a crucial factor in the polls, the BJP has promised to increase the support price of wheat to Rs 2,700 and paddy to Rs 3,100 per quintal. The BJP has also made promises regarding cheaper electricity for 100 units and special budgetary provisions for tribal areas.
Like Congress, the BJP has made promises for tendu leaf collectors. It has also made special efforts to woo the Dalits. Kamal Nath has sought to counter the BJP’s Hindutva narrative in the state by showing himself as a ‘Hanuman devotee’.
A huge Hanuman statue has come up in Chhindwara, his traditional constituency. Both Kamal Nath and Chouhan have crisscrossed the state to shore up the electoral prospects of their parties.
BJP has been in power in the state since 2003, except for a nearly 15-month period in between. Madhya Pradesh will vote for all its 230 seats in a single phase and the counting of votes, with four other states, will be taken up on December 3.