As the Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections date nears, the two major parties in the state - Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress - are making their last ditch effort to grab power in the state, which could be a deciding factor in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who has been in power for the last 13 years, is facing anti-incumbency factor, while the Congress under its new president, Rahul Gandhi, seems quite confident to make a comeback in the state.
On Friday, the BJP announced its first list of 177 candidates for the Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections. While Shivraj Singh Chouhan will contest from the Budhni seat, state ministers Narottam Mishra and Yashodhara Raje Scindia will fight from Datia and Shivpuri respectively. The party’s Central Election Committee (CEC) had held a meeting at its headquarters in New Delhi on Thursday to finalise the names of candidates.
The Congress also held a similar meeting on Thursday, but interestingly, it remained inconclusive after party leaders Digvijaya Singh and Jyotiraditya Scindia exchanged heated notes in the presence of party chief Rahul Gandhi over distribution of tickets, according to reports.
The situation forced Rahul Gandhi to ask senior party leaders Ahmed Patel, M Veerappa Moily and Ashok Gehlot to sit with the "warring" leaders and resolve the differences.
The Congress, however, denied the reports, saying there was no differences between the two leaders. Later, Digvijaya Singh also denied the report in a tweet. “All of us in MP Congress are one and determined to defeat the corrupt BJP Govt in MP,” he tweeted.
BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh is all set to go for polling on November 28 to elect members of the 230 constituencies. The last date of filing nominations is November 9. The counting of votes will take place on December 11.
Here are the major issues in Madhya Pradesh:
Farmers’ suicide is one of the major political issues in the state. Despite Chouhan’s claims of farm sector success, official data shows between February 2016 and mid-February last year, 1,982 farmers and farm labourers committed suicide in Madhya Pradesh which is one-tenth of the 21,000 farmers who have taken their lives in the state in the past 16 years.
The police firing on farmers in Mandsaur on June 6, 2017 is still fresh in voters’ memory. Six protesters were killed in the police firing, leading to violent protests that spread to neighbouring districts, forcing the Chouhan government to launch the Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana (BBY) in October 2017, under which registered farmers would be paid the difference between the minimum support price (MSP) and a modal price.
Chouhan has been facing corruption allegations for the last several years. The Opposition has been alleging that the state has witnessed the maximum number of corruption cases under the Chouhan government.
Scams like Vyapam (a board which selects candidates for government posts through competitive exams) followed by deaths of witnesses and accused made national headlines. The corruption in Vyapam highlighted the deeper crisis in Madhya Pradesh’s education and medical sector.
Drought and water scarcity
Drought in the past two years may hurt the BJP when it comes to rural voters. The water crisis reached severe levels in Jabalpur, Indore, Ujjain, and Sagar divisions in April 2017. The government had to declare 13 districts as drought-hit after almost no rains in 31 districts during the 2017 monsoon season.
Unemployment in both urban and rural areas
The unemployment issue continues to plague the Chouhan government. According to the Labour Ministry, Madhya Pradesh had an unemployment rate of 40 per cent in urban areas and 44 per cent in rural areas in 2015-16. The overall unemployment rate was around 43 per cent. Chouhan’s government has come under fire for lack of job creation.
Education and literacy rate
According to the 2011 census, the literacy rate in Madya Pradesh stood at 70 per cent, which was lower than the national average of 74 per cent.
A CAG report published last year shows the condition of school education in the poll-bound state is dismal. The report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India shows the state has been unable to ensure the implementation of the RTE norms. Also, there has been a significant rate of drop-outs. In five years, the enrolments in elementary education dropped overall by 26.44 lakh or 17% — from 154.24 lakh to 127.80 lakh — between 2010-11 and 2015-16.