Along with the assembly elections in Bihar, 28 seats in Madhya Pradesh will also vote on November 3, making it almost a mini-Assembly election. The bypolls, votes fow which will be counted on November 10, is set to be a high-octane battle between the ruling BJP and the Congress with both the parties having announced their candidates.
Also at stake will be the political fortunes of a number of leaders, including Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, former chief ministers Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh, Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, and last but not the least Jyotiraditya Scindia.
In fact, these bypolls were necessitated after Scindia along with his loyalists shifted loyalty to the BJP, leading to the downfall of the Kamal Nath-led Congress government in the state in March this year.
Currently, the BJP has 107 seats in the 230-member Assembly and rules the state with the support of four Independents, two BSP MLAs and one suspended Samajwadi Party MLA.
It goes without saying that the BJP wants to alleviate its dependence on others to ensure a stable government for which it needs to win at least nine out of 28 seats, which will take it past the half-way mark on its own. However, the BJP would be looking forward to win as many seats as possible to confirm a safe position.
On the other hand, the Congress hold 88 seats in the state assembly and would need to win all the 28 seats go cross the halfway back. However, if the Congress manages to win 20-21 seats, it could try to put pressure on the Independents and BSP MLAs to switch sides.
The BSP has already said that it will appear as the “kingmaker” in the bypolls, indicating that it is not averse to switching sides. Alongside the BJP and the Congress, BSP has also fielded candidates on almost all the seats going for by-elections.
For Chouhan, returning to power in the state was not easy as he had to concede a great deal to Scindia and his loyalists, both in terms of ministerial berths and tickets in the by-elections.
Meanwhile, for Scindia too, these bypolls are no less than a battle of prestige. With the BJP giving tickets to the rebels MLAs loyal to him, the party would be expecting him to as many as seats as possible, and this will eventually decide Scindia’s clout within the BJP. If Scindia’s loyalists fail to deliver in the bypolls, he could find himself marginalised in his new party.
For 74-year-old Kamal Nath, this might be the last chance to become the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh as he will around 77 when the state goes to polls again and it is quite possible that the Congress then looks for a younger face as its CM face.
Of the 28 seats going to polls, 16 are in the Gwalior-Chambal region where caste politics plays a crucial role. The region, which was the epicentre of the the Bharat Bandh against the dilution of the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in 2018, is the BJP’s main area of influence and the party would be looking forward to regain the trust of the Dalit voters there.