Bhopal: A high-voltage campaign for elections to the 230-member Madhya Pradesh assembly, which would decide whether Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan does a hat-track or Congress wrests power after a gap of 10 years, ended this evening.
On Monday, an electorate of 4,64,57,724 will exercise their franchise at 53,896 polling stations to choose from among 2583 contestants trying their luck at the hustings.
Prominent among those in the fray are Chouhan, who is contesting Budhni and Vidisha seats, Leader of the Opposition Ajay Singh from Churhat and Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh`s son Jaivardhan Singh from Raghogarh.
Other heavyweights include Urban Development Minister Babulal Gaur, a former chief minister, from Govindpura, Home Minister Uma Shankar Gupta from Bhopal South-West, Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Minister Gopal Bhargava (Rehli) and BJP MP from Gwalior Yashodhara Raje Scindia (Shivpuri).
Besides, candidates from 12 erstwhile royal families have also thrown their hats in the ring. BJP had come to power in the state in 2003, winning 173 seats, while Congress could manage only 38. The saffron party secured a second straight term in 2008 pocketing 143 seats, while Congress got 71, BSP 7, Bhartiya Jan Shakti Party 5, SP 1 and Independent 3.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi, vice-president Rahul Gandhi, Union Ministers Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia, who represent the state in the Lok Sabha, besides general secretary Digvijay Singh, a former MP chief minister, led the campaign for the party.
BJP`s electoral charge was helmed mainly by its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, veteran leader L K Advani, party president Rajnath Singh, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, MP from Vidisha, and Chouhan.
While the BJP largely sought votes citing its government`s track record in good governance, it came under intense attack from Congress over corruption and "hollow" claims about efficient governance during the electioneering.
Rival sides promised to provide a transparent and a corruption-free government committed to development, providing employment, checking price rise, and effectively tackling issues like law and order.
The high-pitched campaign, however, saw the two main contenders to power engage in bitter mudslinging and personal attacks.
Chouhan and his wife Sadhna Singh even issued a legal notice to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, state Congress chief Kantilal Bhuria and the Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) over an advertisement issued by the party on November 13 which they found defamatory.
The advertisement had alleged there was a currency counting machine at Chouhan`s home, his brother-in-law having made billions through contracts, among other charges.
Chouhan and his wife threatened criminal prosecution if the Congress did not withdraw the allegations within 15 days and initiation of civil proceedings for damages to the tune of Rs 10 crore.
BJP`s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, the powerful Gujarat chief minister, who launched an aggressive campaign for his party in four of the five states where polls are being held, courted controversy with his remark thanking the mosquitoes of Bundelkhand for biting Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi.
"I want to congratulate the mosquitoes as they had dared to bite Shahzade (Rahul), because no one from his family had been touched in the last hundred years. Let alone touching, if anyone said a word against the Gandhi family, its loyalists would not spare him," Modi said addressing a rally at Sagar.
Rahul had earlier said at a public meeting that he suffered mosquito bites when he visited the area in 2009, while narrating the problems faced by the common man.
Though Modi campaigned in the state extensively, Chouhan, with his image of being an able administrator, sought a mandate for a third straight term largely on the basis of the performance of his government.
However, with several ministers and government officers in the state under the scanner for various acts of omission and commission, the Chouhan government came under heavy attack from the Congress during the rancour-filled campaign.
Apart from the performance of its government, the BJP is banking on the `moderate` image of Chouhan, who has managed to maintain a delicate balance between BJP`s core Hindutva philosophy and tenets of secular democracy.
While he introduced `Surya Namaskar` (Sun Salutation) in schools and banned cow slaughter, he did not fight shy of appearing at Iftar parties wearing skull caps, unlike Modi, who had refused to wear the Muslim headgear during his `Sadbhavna` fast in September 2011 when a cleric handed him one, inviting criticism from secularists.