A Newsclick designed data tool predicts that if 4% voters switch from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to Congress, the saffron party will lose 61 seats in the 230-member Assembly, while the Congress will cross the halfway mark of 115, ending up with 118 seats.
With 5.03 crore voters this year, and assuming a voter turnout of 72% -- the same as last time – the swing of 4% would mean nearly 15 lakh voters. That’s a mere 6,300 voters in each constituency, not that it will be spread out so evenly.
A combination of deep discontent among farmers, agricultural labourers, industrial workers and traders with alienation of Dalits and Adivasis has pushed the 15-year-old BJP government in Madhya Pradesh to the brink of defeat in Assembly elections to be held on November 28.
With these powerful factors steadily eroding the BJP’s base, the likelihood of a section of those who supported it in the past switching sides this time has become more and more real.
Demonetisation in 2016, and the Goods and Services Tax (GST) rollout last year, have caused widespread loss of livelihoods and small business collapses. Traders have been angry ever since as they stumbled through the GST maze, trying to meet its onerous demands.
However, it is the faming crisis that is causing the biggest erosion in support for the BJP government led by Shivraj Singh Chouhan. Dipping procurement of foodgrains, insufficient MSPs (minimum support prices) and failure of government schemes, like the Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana, have caused deep unrest in the farming community, which is the dominant voting section in the state.
Other schemes too, like the centrally-run rural job guarantee scheme (MGNREGS) and the rural housing scheme (Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana) have been patchily implemented, partly due to fiscal squeeze and partly due to glitches in the new electronic fund transfer systems.
A 5% swing away from BJP to Congress in rural areas – not an impossibility in these circumstances – would decimate the BJP, which had won 127 of 181 rural seats in 2013. With this kind of swing, BJP would end up with just 67 seats in rural areas, while Congress would boost its tally to 114, the Newsclick predictor reveals.
Even if the urban and semi-urban seats remain largely unaffected by the swing or show only a 1-2% switch from BJP to Congress, the rural areas’ switch will safely carry home the Congress. Recent surveys, in fact, suggest that even in semi-urban areas, BJP is fast losing ground. This was indicated in the local body elections, too. The reasons behind this erosion of BJP votes in the 22 semi-urban seats are not difficult to find. These areas are mostly inhabited by the poorer sections, working as labourers and workers in the vast informal sector, especially around big industrial and trading centres like Indore, Sagar, Satna, Rewa, Jabalpur, and the capital Bhopal. With high unemployment, low wages, and increasing insecurity of jobs, these sections of the population have suffered severe economic hardship in recent years, further aggravated by demonetisation and GST disasters. They are seeking an alternative to the BJP government.
Although the Prime Minister has held about 10 rallies in the state, his so-called magic appears to have drastically waned. This is mainly because he is identified as the origin of many of the disasters that have befallen the people – demonetisation, GST, SC/ST Act dilution and general hostility towards Dalits and Adivasis, and the dire jobs situation. In fact, there are many who feel that the Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre is primarily responsible for the fading fortunes of BJP in MP.
The looming prospect of defeat in the polls has sparked off a return to the communal agenda in the BJP’s increasingly besieged strategy. The Ram Temple issue has been rather synthetically whipped up nationally and the past week saw increasing assertions about it in the BJP campaign. But in MP, communalism is not a major factor in electoral politics. And the Ram Temple issue is perceived by more and more people as just an electoral gambit – thereby rendering it useless.
So the BJP is well and truly backed in a corner as far as MP is concerned, and in all likelihood, is set to lose the state, denting Modi’s 2019 Lok Sabha victory prospects also.