MP polls: Big daddies look askance as small players threaten to upset their apple cart

BHOPAL: More than half-a-dozen small parties and regional political outfits have thrown their hat in the electoral ring in Madhya Pradesh. These parties may – and probably will – muddy the waters for the two key players in the state’s political arena – the BJP and the Congress in the upcoming assembly polls in the state.

To date, the Samajwadi Party (SP), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Gondwana Gantantra Party (GGP), the Jai Adivasi Yuva Shakti (JAYS), the Samanya Pichhda Evum Alpasankhyak Varg Adhikari Karmachari Sanstha (SAPAKS) Party, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the Janata Dal (United) (JDU) and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) have announced that they would be fielding their candidates in the assembly polls.

Bi-polar polity

Since its formation 62 years back, no other party, barring the Congress and the BJP (and its earlier avatar the Janasangh) could ever form government in Madhya Pradesh. Currently, the two parties, share between them, 223 of the 230 assembly seats and all the 29 Lok Sabha and 11 Rajya Sabha seats in the state.

The BSP and the SP have been trying for quite some time now to make inroads into MP from the neighbouring Uttar Pradesh. But their efforts have met with little success. Neither is the Left a force to reckon with in the state. And, of course, MP, besides Rajasthan, is the only state in the Hindi belt, and one of the few in the country, that does not have a regional political outfit of its own.

Little space for ‘others’

While power has been changing hands in the state over the past three decades, the combined strength of the BJP and the Congress in the state assembly has been consistently growing, leaving less and less space for the other parties. In the 2003 elections, the two parties together won 211 seats (BJP 193, Cong 38). The figure went up to 214 (BJP 143, Cong 71) in 2008. In 2013, it climbed further to 223 (BJP 165 Cong 58), leaving only 7 seats for other parties. Four of these were won by the BSP and three by Independents.

The vote share of ‘Others’ has also been shrinking. The cumulative vote share of the BJP and the Congress has never been less than 70 per cent since 1990. It was 79.42 per cent in 1993 and crossed the 80 per cent mark in 2013. The two parties cumulatively secured 81.24 per cent votes in 2013. Both gained at the cost of other parties.

Magathbandhan fizzles out

This time, the talk of a ‘Mahagathbandhan’ between the Congress, the BSP, the SP and the GGP was in the air. However, at the last moment, BSP supremo Mayawati announced that her party would go it alone in the state. The PCC chief Kamal Nath claimed that Mayawati was demanding an ‘unrealistic’ 50 seats, including some from where Congress candidates were elected the last time.

These assembly elections will witness two new political outfits in the fray – the SAPAKS Party and the JAYS.

SAPAKS is basically an anti-quota organisation of non-Dalit and non-tribal government employees. It is headed by Hiralal Trivedi, a retired IAS officer, who is Brahmin by caste. SAPAKS announced on September 30 that it would float a political party and would contest all the seats in the state.

SAPAKS hopes that Brahmins, Thakurs and OBCs would rally around it. It also thinks it can benefit from the anti-Atrocities Act sentiment in the country.

Adivasi Sarkar

The JAYS – headed by Dr Heeralal Alawa – has entered the electoral arena with the slogan ‘Abki baar, adivasi sarkar’. In the state, 47 constituencies are reserved for the STs, while tribal votes decide the winners in 40 others. JAYS plans to contest 80 of these 87 seats.

While it would be difficult for any of these parties to clock a respectable tally in the assembly elections, they certainly have the potential of upsetting the apple cart of the BJP and the Congress. Which of the two they will hurt more is a bit tricky to guess, but, it is certain that the Congress can no longer hope to benefit by the TINA factor.