Madhya Pradesh: Duped in 2008, NCP plots sweet revenge on Congress
The BJP faces major odds in the coming elections, but the Congress is in no position to take advantage.
Bhopal: After close to five years in political hibernation, Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party is ready to spring back to action in Madhya Pradesh. With the experience of the Congress ‘treachery’ in 2008 assembly elections still hurting, the party has decided to go it alone in the state. The NCP would have no seat-sharing arrangement or pre-poll alliance with any other party.
During seat-sharing exercise before the 2008 elections, the Congress had promised 10 seats to the NCP. It ended up not ceding a single seat, which resulted in the latter’s inability to contest the polls at all. This was followed by the then state president Hamid Qazi’s removal from the party by Pawar. He subsequently joined the Congress. A marginal player in the state at the best so far, the NCP is looking to make massive gains from the weak electoral prospects of the incumbent BJP government and the opposition Congress. Pre-poll surveys suggest neither of the bigger parties is set for a clear victory.
In 2008, the BJP had secured 37 percent of votes against the Congress’ 36. Uma Bharti’s BJSP took away four percent of votes which the BJP counts as its own. The BSP’s vote share was 8.24 percent and the SP’s 1.20 percent. The NCP had fielded 105 candidates across Madhya Pradesh and it had a vote share of 2.5 percent.
The BJP faces major odds in the coming elections, including corruption charges, falling popularity graphs of top leaders and ministers of Shivraj cabinet and the not-so-recent sex controversy involving a senior minister of the cabinet, Raghavji. Combined with the anti-incumbency mood, the party has an uphill task. To make matters worse, the party’s own poll surveys predict a downswing in vote margins as well as seats. As many as 20 ministers and 60 MLAs might lose if they contest, if the surveys are to be believed.
Burdened with ‘factions within factions’, the Congress, on the other hand, does not seem to be in a position to take advantage of the weaknesses of the BJP. The loss that latter could incur in the form of votes and assembly seats, does not seem to be consolidating as a gain for the Congress. The NCP wants to fit in the gap. State president of the party, Brijmohan Shrivastav, has announced his aim to field candidates in all 230 assembly constituencies of Madhya Pradesh.
Shrivastava, a senior leader from the Congress, a known strategist and one with great aptitude for political manoeuvring and poll calculations, has spread his attention across the state looking for candidates who can win. On target are seats where the BJP and the Congress both are unable to field proper winning candidates. Search is on dissatisfied leaders with powerful base in their areas, who after giving a lifetime to the giant parties have never been considered deserving of an assembly ticket. Also, on target are women leaders of the state, who according to poll-figures, have performed better than their male counterparts, yet will not be given assembly seat to fight for the simple fact that none is available.
NCP is offering 92 seats, or a whopping 40 percent of Madhya Pradesh’s 230 seats, to women. Thirty-five seats are marked for candidates from minorities such as Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Boudhs and so on. Wary of the poaching powers of both the Congress and the BJP, the party has not made public its list yet. But as per the president’s claims, 70 NCP candidates are already working in their respective constituencies, and shortly the first list of 100 candidates would be announced.
Speaking to Firstpost, Shrivastava said, “NCP looks forward to this election as it happens to be the most favourable time for a party like ours. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s confusion is plainly visible. In a recent matter, his cabinet colleague and tribal minister Vijay Shah made lewd comments about CM’s wife Sadhna Singh. Shah was sacked, only to be taken back in the cabinet three months later. The public cannot understand whether the sacking was right or wrong. Such incidents are many and have denuded the CM of his dignity and made him lose popularity. There are many in the party who call him ‘disha-viheen’ CM.
“He has made some 9,532 public announcements and held 35 panchayats for different classes of society. Most of the announcements are till today just that – announcements. The panchayats had no effect for the promises made were never fulfilled. Then again, the party has been damaged big-time by the activities of senior leaders like Raghavji. Corruption is at a record high.”
He said the Congress could have gained but it lacks cohesiveness and there is no single leader to lead the party. “Jyotiraditya Scindia is one day all set to be announced as the election committee chairman for Madhya Pradesh and the next day the plan is junked. Rahul Gandhi comes and promises big – ‘election candidates would be announced three months ahead of the elections’. It is now some days left for the Election Code of Conduct and yet not one single candidate’s name has been announced,’’ he added.
NCP’s game plan is simple and clear. With the Congress and the BJP both looking incapable of getting a majority, the party wants to cut into their votes and seats. It would not be adverse to enlisting rebels from both sides.
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