Bhopal: For the BJP, which has been in power in MP for the past 15 years, countering the anti-incumbency sentiment against the Modi government at the Centre has emerged a bigger challenge, than dealing with the same sentiment against the state government.
The two main issues that may decide the voters’ choice in the coming Assembly elections in the state, are the movement launched by SAPAKS (Samanya Alpasankhyak Picchda Varg Adhikari Karmachari Sangathan), following the amendments to the SC/ST Atrocities Act, and the discontent among the traders due to GST and demonetisation. And both these are related to the Union government. The upper caste and the small traders who are discontented with the twin moves are traditional voters of the BJP.
National issues dominating
Generally, local issues matter in state elections. The national leaders of various political parties do talk about national issues, but the people decide whom to vote for, mainly on the basis of local factors. But this time, national issues may play a key role in the Assembly elections. The discontent against the Atrocities Act is so deep that many states are witnessing movements against it. Madhya Pradesh is one of the states where this movement is the most powerful. SAPAKS has converted itself into a political party and is planning to field candidates in all the 230 constituencies. The BJP is likely to be hurt the most by this move.
The upper castes and the OBCs have traditionally been pro-BJP. Due to demonetisation and GST, the trader class has suffered big losses. Some industrialists and traders have gone bankrupt. This has generated deep discontent against the Modi government.
Shivraj focusing on failures of former Cong government
The BJP is facing such a situation in Madhya Pradesh for the first time. In the past two Assembly elections, the UPA was ruling at the Centre and Shivraj Singh Chouhan used to very conveniently blame Delhi for all the things that had gone wrong in the state. That option is not available to him this time. It is to deflect attention from these issues that the chief minister is not talking about GST, demonetisation and Atrocities Act. He is, instead, talking about the failures of the Congress governments, which had ruled Madhya Pradesh for 10 years from 1993 to 2003.
In the last elections, the Congress government in Rajasthan had to face a similar situation at that time, the Congress was ruling at the Centre and due to popular anger against it, the Congress was unseated. The Modi government has completed four years in office and the discontent against it is clearly palpable. It could be an issue as Modi wave was a main reason for the BJP’s success in MP in the last elections.
There was huge discontent against Digvijay Singh government in 2003 and that had led to the BJP winning the polls. But that kind of discontent is not visible against the Shivraj government. If the BJP has to come back to power in the state, then the party has to conquer the anti-Modi sentiments of people.
(Story by Shamsher Singh)