(Paras Jain/Mint)
(Paras Jain/Mint)

Why Madhya Pradesh Elections 2019 will be fought between equals

  • The BJP won all but two of the 29 Lok Sabha seats in Madhya Pradesh in 2014 Lok Sabha elections
  • The Congress, however, pulled one back by winning the Madhya Pradesh assembly elections last year

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won all but two of the 29 Lok Sabha seats in Madhya Pradesh in 2014. However, it lost the state polls to the Congress last year, after having been in power for 15 years. Mint decodes the electoral arithmetic in the central Indian state.

What has changed since the 2014 Lok Sabha polls in the state?

BJP had already ruled the state for around a decade when it won in the state in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. That victory, on the back of a Narendra Modi wave and the popularity of Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the then chief minister, is unlikely to be emulated. The state is now run by the seasoned Kamal Nath, a Congress veteran who knows a thing or two in administration. BJP can take heart that despite losing the assembly polls to the Congress last year, it polled a higher percentage of votes than its rival, though the difference was negligible—41%, as against 40.9% of the Congress.

What are the political dynamics?

It’s mostly a fight between the Congress and BJP. Both parties can boast of having produced well-known political figures. The Congress had stalwarts such as the Shukla brothers, Madhavrao Scindia and Arjun Singh in the past, as well as Digvijay Singh, chief minister Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia at present. BJP had mass leaders such as Sundarlal Patwa, Vijaya Raje Scindia and Uma Bharti. It now has Chouhan to carry the flag. It should be a tough fight between the two parties, with Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party relying on the state’s scheduled caste population to cut into their votes.

What is the economic structure of the state?

Madhya Pradesh is rich in farm (wheat and corn) and mineral produce (manganese, bauxite, coal, diamond). Industrial activity is concentrated in Indore, Bhopal, Gwalior and Jabalpur.

How do the state’s demographics stack up?

Madhya Pradesh, India’s second-largest state, has a population of 72.62 million, with a working populace of 25.79 million, according to the 2011 Census. As much as 72.4% of people in the state reside in villages. The sex ratio in the state is 931, worse than the all-India average of 943. The literacy rate of 70.6% is also poorer than the country’s average of 74%. Scheduled castes comprise 15.6% of the population in the state, while scheduled tribes account for 21%.

What are the key issues for voters?

Under Chouhan, BJP had one of the most pro-farmer policies, but was dislodged after the agrarian crisis. The Narendra Modi-led government’s poor performance on the job front will be a challenge for the party in the state. However, the Ujjwala scheme that provides free cooking gas cylinders to women, and the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan have had a big impact. Many farmers have also benefited from the PM Kisan scheme. But Nath is a formidable manager of resources and with no wave this time, it’s a battle of equals.