The exit polls in Madhya Pradesh have predicted that Congress may emerge as the single largest party in the state in the 2018 Assembly polls. However, Shivraj Singh Chouhan has exuded confidence of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) making a comeback in the state for the fourth time as the Chief Minister.
Chouhan said that in 2008 and 2013, exit polls had predicted that the BJP was lagging behind in the race, but the party eventually won on both the occasions. Voting in the state for the 230-member assembly was held in a single-phase on November 28 and counting will be held on December 11. Madhya Pradesh registered a record 75 per cent voter turnout in November 28 polls.
The Congress, meanwhile, said has left no stone unturned to dislodge the BJP government in the state and make a comeback in the state after 15 years.
Shivraj Singh Chouhan
Incumbent Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is the face of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Madhya Pradesh. Chouhan is looking to retain power for the BJP in the state and become the CM for the fourth straight term. He is contesting the Assembly elections from the Budhni seat. Chouhan’s association with the seat began in 1990 when he was elected from Budhni at the age of 31. However, he could then remain an MLA for only a year as he was elected to the Lok Sabha for successive terms. After he was elected the CM of MP in 2005, he contested from the seat again and won it again. He has since scored victory in elections to the seat thereafter. He is the longest-serving chief minister of the state. When he had become the MLA for the first time in 1990, he had carried out ‘kanyadan’ for a poor man’s daughter who was not wealthy enough to meet the expenses. When Chouhan became the CM, he flagged off the Chief Minister's Kanyadan Yojana under which financial assistance is given to poor for meeting expenses of marriage. In the 2018 assembly polls, Congress leader Arun Subhashchandra is contesting against Shivraj.
Yashodhara Raje Scindia
Yashodhara is the sister of Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje and former Madhya Pradesh Congress stalwart Late Madhavrao Scindia, who is also the father of Jyotiraditya Scindia. She was born in London and entered politics soon after her return in 1994 after she separated from her Indian-American husband. She was included in Madhya Pradesh’s Council of Ministers in 2005 and was elected Member of Parliament from Gwalior in 2009. She was elected for 14th Vidhan Sabha from Shivpuri seat and took oath as a Cabinet Minister in 2013. Though she is a former royal from the Maratha clan of Scindias who ruled the then Gwalior state and also won the Lok Sabha elections in 2007 from Gwalior, she contested from Shivpuri seat in 2013 Assembly polls and won by a margin of over 76,000 votes.
Dr Narottam Mishra is a cabinet minister in Madhya Pradesh government who is contesting from the Datia constituency in 2018 polls. He had defeated Congress leader Rajendra Bharti with a margin of 12081 votes from the same seat in 2013. The MP minister was held guilty by the Election Commission of filing wrong accounts of election expenditure relating to articles and advertorials in the media during the 2008 Assembly polls. However, despite allegations, he was allowed to conitinue as a minister in the cabinet. In May 2018, the Delhi High Court had set aside EC's decision to disqualify him from taking part in the poll process. The poll panel's June 23, 2017 decision had come on a complaint by Congress's Rajendra Bharti who had contested against Mishra in the 2008 polls.
Madhya Pradesh's Women and Child Development Minister Archana Chitnis is contesting the 2018 Assembly elections from Burhanpur seat. The sitting MLA is up against Congress leader Ravindra Suka Mahajan. She has been winning the seat for the last three elections. Archana's father, late Brijmohan Mishra was a former speaker and a legislator from Nepanagar. She fought the elections for the first time in 1998 from Nepanagar but faced defeat. However, Archana has won all the three elections thereafter in 2003, 2008 and 2013. In 2018 polls, the Congress has fielded Ravindra Mahajan against the BJP candidate.
BJP MLA Jitendra Gehlot, son of union minister Thawar Chand Gehlot, is contesting on the Alote seat in the current polls. He had contested the 2013 elections from the same seat and defeated Congress's Ajit Premchand Guddu by a margin of 7,973 votes. This year, he is facing a competition from Congress leader Manoj Chawla, Bahujan Samaj Party's Vinod Katariya, Aam Aadmi Party’s Purnima Chouhan, Bahujan Sangharshh Dal’s Mukesh Panchola Tal and Shiv Sena's Sunil Kalyane. He has declared total assets of Rs 2.8 crore and has mentioned in his election affidavit that he is a high school passout. He has mentioned transport, business and agriculture as his source of income and his assets have increased by over Rs 1 crore since the 2013 elections when he won from the seat.
In the 2013 elections, Sanjay Pathak contested as a Congress candidate and defeated BJP's Padma Shukla with a margin of 929 votes on the Vijayraghavgarh seat. Sanjay has dominated the seat since the last two elections winning the elections both in 2013 as well as 2008 elections as a Congress candidate. However, he later joined the BJP and is currently serving as Minister of State for MSME. In 2018, Sanjay Pathak is contesting on BJP seat while Padma Shukla is contesting on a Congress ticket. He is the third top MLA in the state with the highest income and tops the list of crorepati candidates with assets worth over Rs 226 crore.
Congress has not named a CM face for Madhya Pradesh if the party comes to power, but Kamal Nath is being viewed as a prime contender for the top post. He is a nine-time Member of Parliament from Chhindwara. Though Kamal Nath is not contesting the Assembly elections, voters in Chhindwara have been lured in his name with slogans of 'Kamal Nath as CM'. However, while he dominates in the region in Lok Sabha polls, the Congress has been unable to defeat the BJP in Assembly polls here. In 2013, Congress won only three out of the seven seats in Chhindwara district but Kamal Nath went on to win the Lok Sabha seat for the ninth time. The BJP, meanwhile, is confident that such slogans will not help the Congress and have maintained that anti-incumbency for the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government is not a factor in the polls.
Kamal Nath has a tough competition from Jyotiraditya Scindia when it comes to being the chief ministerial face of the party in the state. Scindia, who is the party's campaign committee chief, enjoys as good a support from Congress members in the state. Not just the Congress, the BJP also understands his importance in state politics. Many of BJP's campaigns were surrounded around Scindia with one of them being 'Maf Karo Maharaj, hamara neta Shivraj'. Scindia is also referred to as Maharaj in the state by many due to his royal legacy. An MP from the Guna-Shivpuri constituency, Scindia had secured a win during the last Lok Sabha elections in 2014 when most of his party colleagues faced a defeat amid a widespread Modi wave then. There have been several reports about a long-running rivalry between Scindia and Nath for the CM post.
Ajay Singh is the Leader of Opposition in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly and is contesting the elections from Churhat constituency in Sidhi district. He was elected from Churhat for the first time in 1985 and since then, he has won all elections from there. The only time he lost was in 1993 when he had contested against Sunderlal Patwa of the BJP from the Bhojpur constituency in Raisen district. Ajay is the son of former chief minister and former union minister Arjun Singh who had also represented the same seat of Sidhi district in the Vidhan Sabha four times between 1977 and 1990. During the 2018 elections, there were reports that BJP will field ex-minister Pushpraj Singh from Churhat which may dent Congress's chances on the seat. However ahead of the polls, Pushpraj joined the Congress in a move that was credited to Ajay Singh.
In the 2013 Assembly elections, Arif Aqueel of the Congress won from Bhopal Uttar by a margin of 6,664 votes by defeating the BJP's Arif Baig. Aqueel is up against the lone Muslim candidate of the BJP Fatima Rasool Siddiqui. The battle between the Congress and the BJP in this seat holds importance because of the history of the two leaders in this constituency. Fatima is the daughter of Rasool Ahmed Siddiqui - a former Congress MLA from the same seat. Rasool attained successive wins on the seat before he was defeated by Aqueel who fought as an Independent in 1990. Later in 1998, Aqueel joined the Congress and hance since been contesting from the seat on a Congress ticket. BJP, meanwhile, is banking on the work done and reputation of Fatima's father to win the seat for the party.
Jaivardhan Singh will be contesting Assembly polls from Raghogarh for the second time in a row. The son of former chief minister Digvijaya Singh, Jaivardhan Singh has admitted that it helps to have a political lineage but said that his aim is to "prove and establish" himself so that people vote for him as an individual and not because of his father. He said that since his father was the CM of the state for 10 years, he has to work harder as people make comparisons between the work done by his father and by him. The 32-year-old politician is educated at the Columbia University in New York and Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) in New Delhi. Jaivardhan had his first battle at the hustings by a margin of over 58,000 votes. His constituency has remained with the royal family and the Congress since 1977. Apart from Digvijaya Singh, popularly known as 'Diggy Raja', his brother Lakshman Singh and other Congress candidates have held the seat at various times. The BJP has given ticket to 49-year-old Bhupendra Singh Raghuvanshi from this seat, a local who had lost by a slender margin of 6,300 votes against Congress' Mool Singh in 2008.