Poll eve: Will Madhya Pradesh turn out to be a very close race?

On the eve of the results the two key rivals for power in Madhya Pradesh are extra cautious in reacting to the exit polls. Both the BJP and the Congress claim to have won the voter’s heart but their smiles aren’t broad enough to hide the apprehensions about the outcome that is due on Sunday.

Conservative pollsters would take a high turnout of over 72 per cent as a pointer to incumbency fatigue. But, the BJP claims the new trend reflects a growing enthusiasm among the young voters who are impressed by Narendra Modi’s electrifying campaign. Modi addressed 15 rallies in the state. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan says he would not like to make any claims and would wait till Sunday instead. Some ministers privately admit the contest is tougher than what the media has projected.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. PTI

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. PTI

The BJP leaders exude confidence but refrain to talk about the surveys projecting a comprehensive win for the party. They attribute the muffled response to the prevailing election code which says money spent on anticipatory celebrations would be added to electoral expenses.

The Congress, on the other hand, shows cool confidence in the face of diverse projections that hardly give it a chance. If the exit polls projections are true why the BJP leaders have withdrawn into a shell for a week, asks Ajay Singh the leader of the opposition in the outgoing assembly.

"The exit polls are not doing much talking. It is the money behind them that is making all noises," he says. Singh sees an uncanny resemblance in the BJP’s current state with that of the Congress on the eve of the results during 2003 elections. The Congress showed similar confidence before it was swept out power by the BJP.

The BJP leaders have been busy compiling complaints of sabotage from the party’s official nominees. At least 40 candidates have in complaints to the organising secretary Arvind Menon said the rebels or party rivals have worked against them. The number of persons accused of such practices is over 100. The sheer volume of these complaints points to the rot in the party machinery. The BJP has therefore decided to call a meeting of the disciplinary committee on 16 December to discuss the complaints.

The complainants include the Rewa legislator Abhay Mishra and his wife Neelam who has been issued a party ticket. Incidentally the Mishras have complained against Arvind Menon himself and the minister Rajendra Shukla. Ministers Jayant Malaiyya,Mahendra Hardia and Ramkrishna Kusmaria also have verbally complained to the party about the dissident activity in their areas.

The party also faced resistance in the ministry over holding the cabinet meeting held on Friday while the electoral process is still not complete. Former chief minister and urban administration minister Babulal Gaur raised the question on the legality of such meeting. The leader of the opposition Ajay Singh and the PCC Chief Kantilal Bhuria had also questioned the constitutionality of the meeting. However, the government got the meeting cleared by the election commission as no policy decisions were on the agenda. The government wanted to review decisions taken since the previous cabinet meeting.

A notable absentee was Dev Singh Sayyam who was denied a ticket for the elections. However, two other ministers Nagendra Singh and Rameshwar Ahirwar whom the party had denied nomination were present at the meeting. Ahirwar had earlier threatened to contest as an independent against the party nominee. The meeting that lasted just under 30 minutes was considered to pep up the party workers on the eve of the results. The other reason for the suspense over the cabinet meeting was the re-polling ordered on some booths of Bhopal.

The Congress also has many complaints from the official nominees. There were at least 13 rebels in the fray and twice as many instances of party workers campaigning for the rival candidates. The party office in Bhopal remained relatively calm as much of the action is confined in Delhi.

The Congress has expressed fears of rigging in postal ballots. There are 350,000 government employees on election duty who have been allowed to exercise their franchise by post. The party candidates have claimed that blank ballots have been sent to some farmers and auto-rickshaw operators who had nothing to do with election duty.

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