MP Assembly polls 2013: Will anti-incumbency hurt Shivraj govt?
While the stage is set for a high-voltage electoral battle for power in Madhya Pradesh, the ruling BJP and the main opposition Congress have stepped up attack on each other - the former boasting of providing good governance, while the latter accusing it of indulging in corruption and scandals.
Ritesh K Srivastava
While the stage is set for a high-voltage electoral battle for power in Madhya Pradesh, the ruling BJP and the main opposition Congress have stepped up attack on each other - the former boasting of providing good governance, while the latter accusing it of indulging in corruption and scandals. Since the outcome of assembly elections here will have a direct impact on the 2014 General Elections, both sides are leaving no stone unturned in convincing the voters as to who can provide a transparent and a corruption-free government. Unlike other states, public welfare and development, corruption, employment, price rise, drinking water, electricity supply, law and order etc are the main issues that will dominate the electoral battle in the BJP-ruled state.
Various pre-poll surveys conducted in the recent weeks have already provided the ruling BJP a comfortable lead over Congress indicating that the party is all set to score hat-trick in the upcoming assembly elections. The outcome of these opinion polls has indicated that CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan will outshine others in the tough race of coming to power in Madhya Pradesh. In 2008, the BJP had bagged 143 seats out of total 230 seats, but this time, survey indicates that BJP can only win 124 seats. But, there would still be no problem for Chouhan to retain power in MP. Survey says that the ruling-BJP is expected to get 37 percent of vote share while the opposition Congress will get around 34 percent of vote share. Shivraj Singh Chouhan has scored 100% marks in terms of development and he is the choice of nearly 52% respondents as the most preferred CM candidate for Madhya Pradesh, beating Jyotiraditya Scindia (Congress) who has got 27% votes. Nearly 58% people are satisfied with Chouhan’s performance as CM while 17% are not satisfied and those who are undecided are nearly 27%.
Good Governance & Development
Though good governance is the main poll plank of the BJP government here, several controversies and scandals over the last few years have virtually punctured Chief Minister’ s claim of providing a good governance. Though Chouhan is seen as an honest and technology-savvy leader, a slew of corruption cases against his top ministers, various scams and sex scandals have badly tarnished his image of a clean administrator. The Chief Minister, however, exudes confidence that his party will be elected back to power on the basis of development and public welfare, while blaming the erstwhile Congress government of turning MP into a BIMARU state. The BJP government claims of improving electricity supply, drinking water, education and infrastructure for better connectivity. It says that it has done work, which is visible to the public and outlines rolling out several welfare schemes for all sections of the society. However, the Congress has hit back saying, 50 percent of the schemes announced by the Shivraj government are yet to take off.
Corruption, Scams & Sex Scandals
From alleged sex scandals to corruption charges to moral policing, BJP ministers and MLAs have courted controversies denting Chief Minister’s image badly and pushing the party on the back foot in the poll season. Eleven serving and former ministers and 50 officials of the Civil Services are under Lokayukta scanner for their involvement in corruption cases. These include Urban Development Minister Babulal Gaur, Medical Education Minister Anup Mishra and Cabinet Ministers Kailash Vijayvargiya, Laxmikant Sharma, Ajay Vishnoi and Jayant Mallayya.
Leading the pack is Raghavji, who was sacked as finance minister after an aide accused him of sodomy. Tribal Welfare Minister Vijay Shah was sacked after he made derogatory remarks against Sadhna Singh, wife of the CM. He, however, returned to the Cabinet in the last reshuffle before the election due to his influence on tribal voters. MLA Dhruvnarayan Singh landed in troubled waters when his name figured in connection with RTI activist Shehla Masood murder case. Animal Husbandry Minister Ajay Vishnoi was accused of asking a government employee of sending his wife to him. Education Minister Archana Chitnis has been accused of misusing funds under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. Similarly, Industry Minister Kailash Vijayvargiya has courted controversies for his moral commentary directed usually at women, asking them not to cross limits.
Cooperatives and Public Health Engineering Minister Gaurishanker Bisen courted a slew of controversies in 2011 for publicly humiliated a patwari and making a boy tie his shoelace, causing public uproar. Harda MLA Kamal Patel spent months in jail in 2010 after the CBI arrested him in connection with the case of disappearance of Durgesh Jat, a friend of his son, in 2008. If this was not enough, CM’s wife Sadhna Singh too got embroiled into dumper scam. The Opposition Congress accused Sadhna Singh of purchasing four dumpers by furnishing a fake address and then hiring them to JP Associates.
55 MLAs, including some ministers, out of the 219 members in Madhya Pradesh Assembly have criminal cases registered against them. Of these 55, 28 are from ruling BJP, 21 are from opposition Congress and three from the Bahujan Samaj Party.
Investment, IT & Employment
Chief Minister is trying hard to woo big corporate houses and IT majors to invest in the state on the pretext of providing them ample land, good infrastructure, connectivity, peaceful and cosmopolitan environment and good talent with lesser bureaucratic hassles for doing business. The CM’s effort have borne some fruits as (IT) giants like TCS, Infosys and Impetus are investing about Rs 5,000 crore to develop IT SEZ near Indore that would generate employment opportunities for more than 75,000 youth.
CM’s aim is to develop Indore as a preferred investment destination for IT companies after Bangalore, Pune, Hyderabad and Gurgaon. The state government has reserved land for IT parks commissioned near the airports of the four metro cities of the state, which include Indore, Bhopal, Gwalior and Jabalpur. Despite all this, the BJP government’s record in attracting investments has been dismal. Since 2007, over three investor summits have been organised and more than 1,500 MoUs worth Rs 11 lakh crore have been signed but only investments worth only Rs 25,000 crore have become a reality.
Drinking Water & Electricity
Despite government’s claim of effectively handling the problem of water scarcity, more than 2,000 villages of Madhya Pradesh are still crying for safe drinking water. Residents either have to drink contaminated water or travel miles to quench their thirst. Sometimes, the struggle doesn`t bear fruit. The problem is more acute in Datia district where the villagers have to battle all odds for a bucket of drinking water in Kutoli and surrounding villages. Records with the Public Health Engineering Department show that potable drinking water is not adequate in 2051 villages of the state. The Shivraj government has blamed the Centre for not providing adequate financial assistance needed to make the MP a power-surplus state.
Ladli Laxmi & Women’s Safety
It is ironical that in a state where several schemes like Ladli Laxmi Yojna, Gaon Ki Beti Yojna, Pratibha Kiran Yojna and Beti Bachao Abhiyan have been launched for making girls and women self-reliant, their safety and well-being is still a major concern. When it comes to crimes against women, MP tops the national charts with more than 4,000 incidents of sexual assault every year. Madhya Pradesh has reported the highest number of Rape cases (3,425), assault on women to outrage her modesty (6,655) and importation of girls from foreign country (59) accounting for 13.7%, 14.6% and 10.1% respectively of total such cases reported in the country. As far as crime against children is concerned, Madhya Pradesh (13.5%) is next only to Uttar Pradesh which recorded a rise of 15.8% cases in 2012.
Minorities & Communal Situation
MP CM has been extra cautious of his image and has tried to balance the core values of Hindutva with secularism. While he has shown great respect to his party’s core Hindutva philosophy, he has also managed to strike a chord with the state’s minority community. If Madhya Pradesh became the first state to ban cow slaughter, got the anti-conversion bill cleared by the State Assembly and implemented Surya Namaskar in government schools, Chouhan has taken equal pleasure in attending Iftar parties and wearing a skull cap during the holy month of Ramzan despite facing criticism from his own party colleagues. Several welfare schemes/initiatives launched by his government, including special trains to Ajmer, mass marriages for Hindus and Muslims, higher subsidy for farmers, the Beti Bachao Abhiyaan and the Ladli Laxmi Yojana launched in 2006 etc have benefitted all sections and increased his reach beyond minorities, OBCs and farmers etc. As far as the communal situation in the state is concerned, there have been flare-ups, but no major riot has been reported since Chouhan took over.
Chouhan’s major achievement has been Madhya Pradesh’s record agriculture growth. If statistics are to be believed, the wheat production in 2011-12 was 85 lakh tonnes while the figure in 2002-03 was 2 lakh tonnes. Various welfare-schemes launched by the Chouhan government have helped the farmers in the Vindhya region in making more profit-value than that of farmers in Punjab. The successful construction of Banasagar and Gulab Sagar canals has provided uninterrupted water supply to farmers in this region.
In the social sector, Chouhan’s schemes have been so well received that even the Centre has adopted them. In every village, there is an ambulance available for pregnant women to be taken to the hospital. When a girl child attains the age of 21, the state government gives her Rs 1 lakh. State government employees have benefited from Chouhan’s largesse. He has made their dearness allowance at par with that of Central government employees. He has raised the age limit to 40 for employees to apply for higher positions. He has also allowed the hiring of daily wagers by the state departments for administrative work, which has been a boon for several unemployed youth. He has increased the retirement age of the higher education teachers to 65 years and has also accepted the UGC recommendations for pay fixation.