Can Shivraj Singh Chauhan pull off a fourth term win? - Hindustan Times

Can Shivraj Singh Chauhan pull off a fourth term win?

Oct 23, 2023 03:56 PM IST

The BJP in Madhya Pradesh announces major schemes while facing challenges of voter fatigue, corruption allegations, and demands for caste census.

In the last six months, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Madhya Pradesh — which goes to polls next month — has left no stone unturned to woo voters, announcing major schemes worth 21,675 crore, development projects of over 2.53 lakh crore and fulfilling many promises including development of new districts, tehsil, municipal council and others. But yet, the biggest challenge facing the incumbent government is fatigue, followed by hot ticket issues for the electorate like corruption allegations, and demands for caste census.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan(PTI) PREMIUM
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan(PTI)

The Congress has promised a slew of freebies, with slogans like haath ka button dabao, 100-unit bijli free pao’ (Vote for Congress and receive 100-unit electricity-free). The opposition has also made corruption, caste census, and unemployment due to irregularities in recruitment exams including the Patwari recruitment exam, agriculture officer and nurse recruitment exam and fatigue major poll planks.

Fatigue with BJP

The BJP senior leadership first caught wind of the fatigue in March 2020. Chouhan tried to change his image from a soft and humble leader to a hard taskmaster by endorsing bulldozers demolishing houses of those accused of crimes against women, Dalits and tribals, and taking action against members of the mafia by imposing NSA. This didn’t always go the way he hoped it would. In Bundelkhand and Vindhya, for instance, the demolition of houses of the Brahmin accused led to ill-will against the party.

Congress started highlighting how even senior national leaders avoided taking the CM’s name and schemes in their speeches as they sensed the voters’ boredom.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah avoid taking the name of the CM and his schemes in their speeches because they know that voters will not vote for them. This is the reason for not announcing any CM candidate,” said Randeep Singh Surjewala, in-charge MP and national general secretary of Congress.

He said that the BJP however, had no trouble announcing the name of seven MPs including three Union ministers as candidates in the assembly election.

50% Commission

The Congress started this campaign in July after a letter allegedly written by a contractor to the chief justice of MP High Court went viral on social media. In the letter, the contractor claimed that they had to pay 50% commission to the BJP-led government on every work, in what seemed reminiscent of a similar issue that cropped up during the elections in Karnataka when the Congress coined the term, “40% sarkara” in reference to the commission that the erstwhile Basavaraj Bommai government allegedly took for all contracts it gave out.

Back in MP, the BJP has claimed that the letter — and the contractor — are fake. The Congress has also made a list of over 250 small and major scams reported in the past 15 years (crucially, excluding the 15 months tenure of Congress government between December 2018 to March 2022). Audit reports, including the recently published report of Ayushman Bharat in which MP is one of the states where bills of dead people were cleared for treatment, have also given substantial ammunition to the Congress to attack the BJP.

“Dead people are treated in this factory of BJP. Their money is stolen. The theft was committed with Lord Shiva in Mahakal Corridor. School uniforms and mid-day meal money are stolen. To become a Patwari here, one has to pay 15 lakh in bribes. The future of one crore youth was ruined in Vyapam in BJP's factory. 40 people were murdered. MBBS seats sold out,” senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said in a rally in Shahdol held on October 10.


Gandhi referred to the infamous Vyapam scam, unearthed in 2013, to highlight how MP has earned disrepute through irregularities in the recruitment exam. The state changed the name of Vyapam to MP Employees Selection Board in 2020. Even so, in the past three years, at least three exams have been cancelled and reports of irregularities in three other recruitment exams surfaced, including paper leaks and hacking of software. Most recently, a controversy erupted after seven candidates, who took the exam in a college run by BSP legislator Sanjeev Singh Kushwaha, who joined BJP last year, emerged as toppers in the exam.

An inquiry committee set up by Chouhan has yet to submit its report.

Unemployment is a major poll issue in MP. In the MP legislative assembly, youth affairs minister Yashodhara Raje Scindia informed that only 21 people got government jobs from 2020 to 2021 in MP in a reply to a question.

“The BJP promised to provide jobs to youth but they hardly conducted a fair exam after Vyapam. They are patronising the exam mafia in the state,” said Govind Singh, leader of the Opposition in the state assembly and Congress MLA.

Caste Census

Rahul Gandhi and Congress state president Kamal Nath have made the caste census a poll plank. The leaders claim that atrocities against SC/ST and OBC persons as well as other injustices are all due to poor political representation of these groups.

In MP, the Congress sought to increase OBC reservation to 27% in July 2019 [from the previous 14%] but the matter reached court. More than 100 petitions have been filed before the MP high court in favour and opposition to the reservations.

ALSO READ: Reservation row: How two states dealt with OBC quotas

Congress has claimed that the caste census is the only option left to ensure an increase in OBC reservation.

However, BJP leaders are trying to curb anti-incumbency with development and populist schemes and are yet to find a strong counter to these poll planks.

“In his tenure CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan shunned the tag of BIMARU state, improved road connectivity, empowered women, improved skewed sex ratio and brought overall development. Voters have realized that the BJP is the only option to see MP as the number 1 state in India. Congress is lying and people have seen 15 months of tenure of bad governance and corruption,” said Rajneesh Agrawal, spokesperson of BJP.

Political analyst Girija Shankar said, “Fatigue has been setting against BJP since 2020. BJP leaders and CM Chouhan has tried his best to change the image. All this while, the Congress hardly held protests, rallies or major dharnas against these problems. Now, they have made them poll issues.”

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