With the announcement of the schedule for the 2019 Lok Sabha election, political pundits are expected to pay particular attention to three big states of the Hindi heartland — Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. In these states, the BJP and Congress will be in direct contest with each other.
In 2014, a wave election had brought the Narendra Modi-led government to power. Such a wave is rarely repeated in quick succession. Some BJP-led governments have performed poorly and the party has had to deal with disgruntled allies. On the other hand, the Congress has seen a resurgence in some key states.
In the Assembly elections held in November-December, the Congress had trounced the BJP in all three states. However, a silver lining for the saffron party was that its vote share improved in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, the BJP won 27 seats out of 29 seats in Madhya Pradesh, 10 out of 11 seats in Chhattisgarh, and all 25 seats in Rajasthan. Out of the BJP's tally of 282, 62 were from these three states. These seats constituted a big contribution to the BJP's tally — nearly 22 percent of the total seats won. Unless the BJP retains this tally, it will be difficult for the party to get a majority similar to 2014.
The challenge now before the BJP is to chalk out strategies to counter the Congress, at a time when the latter party is running the governments in the three states.
Shortly after assuming power in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, the Congress had announced farm loan waivers in these states. In Madhya Pradesh, the Kamal Nath-led government recently announced a 27 percent quota for OBCs in government jobs. In the Assembly election, more than half of the OBCs voted in favour of the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government. The BJP had lost the election with a thin margin. It also had to pay the price for farm distress.
In Chhattisgarh, the Bhupesh Baghel government has returned land acquired by Tata for a steel plant to tribals in Bastar. The land had remained unused for a long time.
The previous Raman Singh government’s development initiatives in Naxal-hit districts in the Bastar region failed to win seats for the BJP. The party's "development model" could not woo tribal voters. In the Assembly election, the BJP won only one out of 12 seats in the Bastar region.
A source in the Chhattisgarh Congress said, “Our government is working on policies related to farmers, farm labourers, tribals and Naxalism. We’ve seen how the BJP’s flawed development agenda failed miserably. The Congress will definitely increase its tally this time.”
In Rajasthan, the BJP will face a tough challenge from the Congress' "Mission 25." Deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot said recently, "I have full faith that the Congress party’s ‘Mission 25’ will be successful. The Congress will fight and win."
Meanwhile, the Congress will chalk out its campaign strategy in these three states during a meeting of the Congress Working Committee — the party's highest decision-making body — on 12 March in Gujarat.
Firstpost is now on WhatsApp. For the latest analysis, commentary and news updates, sign up for our WhatsApp services. Just go to Firstpost.com/Whatsapp and hit the Subscribe button.
Updated Date: Mar 11, 2019 19:47:14 IST