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Photo: PTI
Photo: PTI

What role will anti-incumbency play in polls?

Note ban, farmers' issues and a call for change may determine final results

Vidisha (Madhya Pradesh): Kundan Yerwar, 43-year-old taxi driver in Vidisha town of Madhya Pradesh, migrated from Rajasthan around 30 years ago with his parents. He was 28 when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) trounced the Congress in Madhya Pradesh assembly elections in 2003 on the campaign theme of bijli, sadak, paani (electricity, roads, water). Pointing at the main road in Vidisha and drainages, Kundan said the BJP, in particular chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, had delivered on the electoral promise of development. “I remember the Congress rule. We had problems in almost everything. Shivraj Singh Chouhan has done a lot of work."

But Kundan added that he voted for the Congress in the assembly election on Wednesday. “Change is necessary here. Congress also will have to work this time and work more. If there is one party-rule for a long time, it will act according to its own whims and fancies."

He said the Shivraj Singh government had done a good job, but it is the Narendra Modi government at the centre that “deserves to be punished for its misdeeds of demonetization and inflation".

Similarly, in BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh, which went to polls on 12 and 20 November, farmer leader Rajkumar Gupta says it is the Modi government’s “anti-farmer decisions" which could cost the state government dearly.

“Farmers are angry with Modi for not delivering on the MSP (minimum support price) promise of 2014," Gupta said, predicting that chief minister Raman Singh “will sink because of Modi".

The state assembly elections in 2018 have been shaped by different shades of anti-incumbency. Most opinion polls on Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have shown that Chouhan and Singh remain the most preferred chief ministerial candidates, but projected a close finish. In both states, much of the anti-incumbency sentiment seems directed at the Modi government.

Meanwhile, Modi has been drawing huge crowds in Rajasthan where the slogan Modi tujhse bair nahi par Rani teri khair nahi (we have no problem with Modi, but will not spare chief minister Vasundhara Raje) has become a common refrain.

“The BJP government in Rajasthan has focused more on urban areas and very less attention has been paid to villages and farmers," said Kishan Lal Kalasna, a vendor in Dungarpur town.

In Mizoram, incumbent Congress chief minister Lal Thanhawla has been in office for two consecutive terms since 2008. According to him, “anti-incumbency emanates from the opposition. There is no anti-incumbency in Mizoram against the Congress government."

But the feeling in the streets of Aizawl is different.

“We have seen Lal Thanhawla in office for 10 years, I think it’s time for change," said 35-year-old Chuani, a teacher. Analysts, however, say the anti-incumbency against the Congress may not work against it because of a three-way split in the vote between MNF (Mizo National Front), ZPM (Zoram People’s Movement) and BJP.

“This split may in fact help the Congress," said K.V. Reddy, head of the political science department at Mizoram University. “This is so, because there are people who suspect that the MNF and the BJP may join hands after the polls are over. People here are wary of the BJP given that most of the population here is Christian."

Down south, while the Telangana Rashtra Samithi supremo and caretaker chief minister K. Chandrashekar Rao is popular in his constituency of Gajwel, MLAs from the TRS are facing flak across constituencies for non-performance.

Voters are also miffed at the TRS government for failing to fulfil some of its promises, including building two-bedroom houses for the poor. Although the TRS government introduced a host of farmer-centric schemes, many farmers are also unhappy with the government as a loan waiver scheme announced by it has failed to clear their debts.

Elizabeth Roche from Aizawl (Mizoram), Anuja from Dungarpur (Rajasthan), and Yunus Y. Lasania from Siddipet (Telangana) contributed to this story.

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