By Sriram Karri
INDORE, APRIL 19, 2019: The Parliamentary contest in the capital city of Bhopal has acquired the media interest equivalent of an IPL final. Here, former two-term chief minister and eternal controversy’s child Digvijaya Singh, royal scion of Raghogarh, is back in electoral fray after a self-imposed decade-long ‘electoral sanyas’ after defeat in the Assembly in 2003, and will face Ms Pragya Singh Thakur, aka Sadhvi Pragya, a Hindu sanyasin who was arrested over terror charges but acquitted recently.
The Bhopal contest reveals the logline summary of the larger fight for the 29 Lok Sabha seats at stake in the state; where in 2014 a Modi wave helped the BJP take home 27 of them, and is praying for a near repeat, while the Congress, which brought down the three-term state government of Shivraj Singh Chouhan in the Assembly polls in December last year, hopes that anti-incumbency will give it an edge.
More importantly, the Digvijaya-Pragya duel is a giveaway to the central fault line of a narrative that will dominate the polls here – religion and nationalism – overarching all other bread-and-butter issues, which even a cursory travel of a few days across a few provinces lays bare – agrarian distress, jobs, lack of industry and a social infrastructure far behind times.
Diggi Raja, the former Congress CM who was once dubbed the ‘political guru’ of Rahul Gandhi, is known as a strong anti-RSS voice nationally, who has often ruffled saffron feathers with his controversial statements, calling them ‘killers of the Mahatma’ to ‘Hindu terrorists’, even as members of the BJP-RSS parivar have little hesitation in calling him out as the symbol of everything wrong in Congress – Muslim-appeasing and anti-national who sing the ‘tunes of Pakistan’.
SAFFRON HEARTLAND STATE
For over two decades, I have argued that those who understand both Gujarat and MP, would accede that Madhya Pradesh has a stronger hue of saffron in its heart than any other. Out here, Hinduism is a given primacy, not an issue of debate. It was in MP’s two-faced political reality – of the predominant and ubiquitously overt Hindu symbolism and a large Muslim electorate – that a need to distinguish between a good Hindu versus bad Hindu was born.
Congress in MP is Hindu, only as much as the BJP, because everyone in the state has to – even those debating secular issues like jobs and farmer distress, have to first demonstrate and prove their obsequiousness to the religion.
As I travel across Malwa and Neemad regions, young people between ages of 18 to 23 years, many of them first time voters, emphasised strongly that ‘they could wait for higher education, jobs and healthcare, but not the Ram temple.’
CONGRESS KEPT PROMISES
At Khandwa, I meet Arun Yadav and Sachin Yadav, young leaders and brothers, and the inheritors of the legacy of the most prominent political name in the region, their father late Subhashchandra Yadav.
Elder brother Arun, a two-time Lok Sabha MP, who served as a junior minister in the Dr Manmohan Singh government, gained ever greater traction when as the PCC chief, he took on but lost to Shivraj Singh Chouhan in Budhni in the last assembly elections. Sachin, who won, and is now the Agriculture Minister of MP, says the election in MP is about promises.
“The people of MP will choose between the failed promises of BJP versus the promises kept by Congress within 100 days of coming to power, including loan waivers for farmers, reducing electricity bills by half and pensions for senior citizens,” said Sachin Yadav, agriculture minister, who expressed confidence, his elder brother Arun Yadav would win in Khandwa –because of his grassroots-level popularity.
MODI, MODI, MODI
Speaking to supporters of the rival at Khandwa, reveals the real alternative – the BJP banks not on the memory of anything done during Mr Chouhan’s three-terms as CM but on the emotional appeal of prime minister Narendra Modi.
“We know Arun bhai (Yadav) is a strong candidate. Our incumbent, Nand Kumar Singh, is a bad candidate, with poor performance who has done little, but we will win on the slogan –
Nandu ek majboori hain, Modi ka aana jaroori hain (Nandu is a compromise, we need Modi back),” said Ankur bhaiya.
Aditya Kasliwal, prominent automobile businessman in Indore, who runs the Kasliwal Honda and Kasliwal Hyundai, explains, “People of MP love the BJP, they love Modi. They want Modi to continue his good work. The moment Congress is back, we have power cuts. Corruption will start again. No one will consider the local candidates. It is only about Modi.”
When quizzed about Modi’s economic performances, Mr Kasliwal says, “He has done a lot to change the system, not just growth. His moves (GST, bank accounts, insolvency bill) will give results. People in MP understand it. There is a clear reverse swing of mood – people have forgotten Assembly result, BJP will get 25-26 seats here.”
In the prestigious seat of Indore, current Lok Sabha Speaker and eight-term MP, Sumitra Mahajan, India’s longest serving woman Parliamentarian, has opted out of the race, making it open for two new contestants to fight it out.
Kripal Singh Saini, a prominent local social figure, who is supporting Pankaj Sanghvi, the Congress candidate from Indore, says, “The Congress is building on a new realization that the BJP is all about slogans. It breached the fort last year. The vote will be for a new India, a new MP, and a new Indore. Rejection of everything wrong in the past with BJP which did not work means we will give Congress its biggest chunk of seats in India.”
(The writer is the author of ‘Autobiography of a Mad Nation and The Spiritual Supermarket’, a columnist and a political analyst.)
Article source: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/elections/lok-sabha/india/reverse-swing-for-bjp-in-madhya-pradesh-puts-congress-on-back-foot/articleshow/68935503.cms