Kamal Nath Crowned As New CM of Madhya Pradesh; Gehlot Is Picked Up for Rajasthan

This time it seems Rahul Gandhi is on board an expedition for experience, which is evident from the course of action he undertook while picking up the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh. Senior leader Kamal Nath became his first preference over Jyotiraditya Scindia.

Since the advent of Rahul Gandhi on the political scene, the tussle between Congress’ ‘old guard’ and ‘young turks’ has gathered pace.

The seniors were mostly the ones who had started their political careers under Sanjay and Rajiv Gandhi, and then stayed loyal to Sonia Gandhi, as she revived the party. Sonia, who was the Congress president at the time, worked closely with them and depended on them for advice. The younger leaders who entered Parliament in 2004 or 2009 were mostly of Rahul Gandhi’s age group, and shared interests with him, worked on political projects and recognised that as they grew in the party, he would be their leader.

It was in this climate that Rahul Gandhi eventually took control of the party as vice-president in 2013 and then eventually as president in 2017. The old guard was sceptical and feared it would be sidelined. But one of the things that Gandhi promised he would do was combine experience and youth. He would capitalise on the talent and energy of both at a time when his party was at its lowest. And he would be a bridge.

A key test of this balancing act for Gandhi was in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Pilot had worked hard, spent time on the ground for four years, was popular with the youth, believed the ongoing Congress revival was primarily due to his efforts, and wanted to act as autonomously as possible. Gehlot, as a former two-term CM, saw himself as the natural leader of the party in the state despite a loss in 2013. He retained active interest in state politics, had loyal followers and connections in each constituency and had higher recall value. Both wanted to be CMs.

In MP, the problem was more complicated as there had been intense factionalism for over a decade. Kamal Nath, who had largely been in national politics, despite being an MP, wanted to return. He was resourceful. The organisation needed him. And former CM Digvijaya Singh backed him. But Jyotiraditya Scindia was the most popular face of the party. He was strong not only in the Gwalior-Chambal region, but had a pan-state connect with the young in particular. He was an indispensable campaigner. Both had ambitions of leading the state.

Gandhi told all of them that the party only had one priority — defeating the BJP. And he divided responsibilities with the brief to win the election. Pilot, Gehlot, Nath and Scindia recognised that the party was confronting its deepest crisis in modern times. Gandhi was right. They had to win first.

Congress circles offer the following explanation in Rajasthan. The party has a fragile majority. It needs to work with allies and independents. There is a Lok Sabha election to be won with 25 seats up for grabs. If he is picked, Gehlot can hit the ground running and get a grip on the administration quickly given past familiarity with the ways of the Rajasthan bureaucracy. Yes, Pilot worked hard; appointing Pilot would have sent a message that the party was ready to empower the young. But Pilot, in his early 40s, can wait for many opportunities that will emerge. The time seems right to let the old warhorse, Gehlot, consolidate the party’s achievement for that overarching objective of defeating the BJP in 2019.

In MP, Nath – well-connected in business circles — was seen as having provided resources to a weak and cash-strapped organization. The party had been out of power here for 15 years. At 72, and somewhat frail, this is also one of Nath’s last opportunities in what has been a successful political career. The appointment is both a recognition of his contribution to the campaign as well as a signal to corporate India. Yes, Scindia is more popular; appointing Scindia could well create a ‘hawa’ among the youth in particular; Scindia has delivered a phenomenal win in his bastion of Gwalior-Chambal. But Gandhi seems to have calculated that Scindia, one of his closest political associates and the man who sits next to him in the Lok Sabha, can be used more effectively for the 2019 elections and rewarded at an opportune time. He’d be a part of Gandhi’s team for decades.

The appointment of Nath and likely selection of Gehlot reveals a ruthlessly pragmatic streak in Gandhi. But this tilt is only temporary. The story in the Congress remains one of generational change. The story of the future is the story of Pilot and Scindia and the wider cohort of younger leaders in their 40s, working under Rahul Gandhi, leading their states, ministries, and the party in different forms over the next few decades.

Kamal Nath May Likely to be the Next CM of Madhya Pradesh

After scribing the victory for itself in Madhya Pradesh, Congress is embroiled in a new discussion for the face of Chief Minister. Kamal Nath state Congress president and frontrunner for the top job, stated that “we will campaign against the kind of GST he (Prime Minister) has brought in”.

Here are some questions asked from Kamal Nath after the victory.

Did you think of the assembly election like a semi-final before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls?

No, I did not think of it like a semi-final. It was inevitable…we ended 15 years of misrule of the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government. We had seen the resentment against the government build up in every section of society. The defeat had to happen.

To what do you attribute the very narrow margin of victory in the state? Did you expect the fight for Madhya Pradesh to be such a neck-and-neck finish?

That was because of the organisational might of the BJP and the money power they used. The victory margin was also narrow because the Vindhya region let us down. It was in this region that the organisational might of the BJP was at its peak and our preparedness was not good. In a fiercely contested election, the organisational capacity can prove to be very crucial.

Any other pushback factors?

We were pushed back by the massive publicity campaign launched by the BJP and the state government. Huge budgets were used and the media was part of this lavish spending.

Did the very long counting day have its moments of anxiety for you?

The counting took long because of the new rules coming into play. Then there were some disputed rounds of counting and it all ended at 3 am.

Any attempt at foul play?

All I can say is that all efforts were made to influence the returning officers.

What will be your priorities now? For instance, you had recently tweeted that the number of people living below the poverty line has increased sharply in Madhya Pradesh, so will the fiscal state of affairs be top priority?

I am worried about the fiscal health of Madhya Pradesh and we will have to do some innovative out-of-the box thinking on how resources can be raised for the state. We will have to do something new since there has been such a drain on resources.

You have been Union Commerce Minister. What are the economic policies of the Modi government that you feel would be key to the 2019 general election campaign?

We will expose the Prime Minister, both at the state and national level. For instance, we will campaign against the kind of GST he has brought in. And the mishandling of demonetisation which has badly hit small businessmen and traders. There is clear lack of confidence in him which is visible. Plus, people are seeing that the CBI is now divided, the RBI is divided, the entire society has been divided by the Modi government.

The pre-assembly election alliance with the BSP did not work out but today both parties reached out for government formation in Bhopal. Will this pave the way for a Congress-BSP alliance for 2019?

We do want a firm national alliance with other parties who want the BJP to be ousted. What we must remember is that in the 2014 elections, while the BJP got a large number of seats, their vote share was only 31%. They must be the only party in the world in such a predicament. So what is the mandate they are boasting about?

Exit Polls Ended for Madhya Pradesh and Mizoram

With a decent number of voter’s turnout the assembly election in two states have concluded. Around 1,145 EVMs and 1,545 VVPATs were found to be faulty in Madhya Pradesh and had to be replaced, while three Election Commission’s polling officials died from cardiac arrest.

The Congress is trying to wrest Madhya Pradesh from the three-term holder Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), while in Mizoram, the BJP is hoping to break the ground and play the kingmaker, if not the king, by supporting regional parties in today’s election. The battle of ballots in Madhya Pradesh and Mizoram is just months ahead of the Lok Sabha polls slated in the first half of 2019. Results of the Assembly polls 2018 will be declared on December 11.

MP is voting to elect a 230-member Assembly, for which as many as 2,899 candidates, including 1,094 independents, are in the fray.

BJP is contesting all the 230 seats, while the Congress has fielded 229 candidates, leaving one seat, Jatara in Tikamgarh district, for its ally — Sharad Yadav’s Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD).

Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, in office since 2005, is seeking re-election from Budhni in Sehore district. The BSP has fielded 227 candidates, while the SP is contesting on 52 seats. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), contesting the Madhya Pradesh elections for the first time, has fielded 208 candidates.

Elections to the 40-member Assembly in Mizoram, which has a population of about 1 million, is significant for the BJP, which considers it to be the ‘final frontier’ in the region. The Congress and the MNF have fielded 40 candidates each, while the BJP is contesting in 39 seats. The Zoram Peoples Movement (ZPM), an alliance formed by two political parties and four groups, is contesting in 35 seats.

Congress leaders had earlier in the day, demanded that the Election Commission should have had compensated for the time wasted in replacing faulty EVMs and VVPATs by extending the polling time in concerned booths in Madhya Pradesh and Mizoram.

“BJP Promoted Illegal Mining on the Banks of Narmada,” Says Congress

Both Congress and BJP have their own strategies for Narmada where the former is hell-bent for cleansing the water, the latter promises to facilitate Narmada’s supply to each and every household. Amidst polls the BJP, seeking re-election, has promised to take the Narmada waters to each village in the region through a network of pipelines.

The Congress party, on the other hand, has blamed the BJP for promoting illegal mining along the banks of the river and has also highlighted the poor maintenance of the ghats and places for pilgrims to stay.

The Narmada in Madhya Pradesh is probably one river in the country that brings election candidates and voters together – or divides them – like no other.

The Narmada courses through the boundaries of about 50 assembly seats – about a fifth of the state’s total – and the river basin covers 16 of the state’s 51 districts, including Anuppur (where the river originates at Amarkantak), Khargone, Khandwa and Sehore, where chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s assembly seat Budhni is located.

Now, the parties prepare for the November 28 election, the two political rivals have adopted their own Narmada-based strategies.

Mandhata in Khandwa district is considered politically significant in view of the Omkareshwar temple, one of the 12 Jyotirlinga shrines of Shiva, located on an island on the Narmada river. The people here are angry with the administration for not ensuring the release of adequate water from the nearby Omkareshwar dam in the river.

“Six months ago, there was an agitation in support of the demand for uninterrupted flow of water near Omkareshwar temple,” recalled Shobha Ram Kateria, a priest. When the proper flow was restored, Nand Kumar Chouhan, the BJP MP from Khandwa, persuaded the locals to stop the agitation, according to Kateria.

However, there is a shortage of water in the river once again and it has now become a poll issue. The BJP has denied a ticket to Lokendra Singh Tomar, its sitting MLA from Mandhata, and has fielded Narendra Singh Tomar instead.

The Congress candidate is Narayan Patel. BADWAHA Badwaha assembly seat in Khargone district is located along the banks of the Narmada and is also known for the production of chilli pepper. The key issues here are the poor condition of the river and its ghats at Kheri and illegal mining.

“There is no link between the recently constructed ghats and the river. We also demand for putting a check on illegal mining in the Narmada basin. This is a big issue for us in view of the hundreds of pilgrims who regularly visit the area,” said Sanjay Gupta, a member of the Congress. Mahendra Singh Bhatia, a BJP leader, said a sewage treatment plant is being set up in the area to prevent polluting the river.

Will Congress Has an Added Advantage in Madhya Pradesh?

Congress is trying every possible way to win Madhya Pradesh’s elections, which have been staged as semi-final for 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Congress which has been out of out of power for 15 years in Madhya Pradesh, is all in to win the upcoming assembly elections.

As per the opinion polls conducted in the state, Congress has been relegated an edge over BJP as it is expected to ride the anti-incumbency wave against the Shivaraj Singh Chouhan-led BJP government to power after the three terms.

But the party’s seat count of 37 in 2003, 71 in 2008 and 58 in 2013 assembly polls suggests that it has a daunting task on its hands. BJP emerged as the winner on all three occasions with 173, 143 and 165 seats respectively in the 230 seat assembly.

Congress, well aware that a loss this year could inflict serious attrition at the party cadre level, is desperate to come back to winning ways.

It manifesto released a few days ago covered all the bases as it incorporated extensive measures for farm sector, women, unemployed youths, industrial sector and even a lot to appease the majority population.

Unlike in other states where the lack of local faces cost it heavily, the party is packed with experienced leaders in almost every region of the state.

From Digvijaya Singh, who holds a sizeable sway over party workers across the state, to Kamal Nath, who enjoys clout in Mahakaushal region, to Jyotiraditya Scindia, who has mass support base in Gwalior-Chambal region, there is no dearth of local leaders.

In addition, there is Ajay Singh in Vindhya region, Suresh Pachauri in central MP, Arun Yadav in Nimar region and Kantilla Bhuria in the Jhabua-Ratlam tribal belt.

In fact, one could say there is a problem of plenty for the party, which has come across on many occasions in the form of internal rifts and tussles over seat distribution and posts.

As the party seniors vouch for unity, reports of internal tussle keep coming out of closed-door meetings, including the much-hyped Digvijaya- Scindia feud ahead of announcement of candidates.

But the BJP’s house is also not in order in the state, and is perhaps in worse shape, as several party seniors got embroiled in controversies – Narottam Mishra in a paid news case, Lal Singh Arya in MLA Makhan Singh Jatav’s murder case, Surendra Patwa in a loan issue and Rampal Singh in a suicide case by his alleged daughter-in law.

Other senior leaders like Babulal Gaur, Sartaj Singh and Kusum Mahdele too embarrassed the saffron party over ticket distribution.

Gaur almost took on the entire party after he was not re-nominated from Govindpura and only withdrew his rebellion after his daughter-in-law Krishna was given a ticket. Sartaj Singh, on the other hand, joined the Congress and senior minister Kusum Mahdele vented anger publicly after she was denied a ticket. Party cadre have also revolted openly over ticket distribution in many areas.

The BJP also faced stiff opposition in Gwalior-Chambal and other areas with the emergence of Samanya Pichhra Alpsankhyak Kalyan (SAPAKS) party, which managed to mobilise non-reserved categories on quota issue.

On the contrary, the Congress has remained very cautious on ticket distribution, keeping in mind the regional and social equations.

The party, however, could not pair up with Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party, which had clinched 6.5% vote share last time, despite extended deliberations. Still, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who has been wading through controversies one after another in his 13 year term at CM House, seems a tough opponent yet again.

Congress’s OBC Frontman Arun Yadav Will Contest Against Shivraj Singh Chouhan

The gigantic unified political front- Congress, on Thursday announced its OBC face Arun Yadav as the Chief Ministerial candidate for the poll bound Madhya Pradesh. The sixth and final list of candidates for the election- to be held on November 28- was released last night amid the mounting anxiety.

Arun Yadav will contest against Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan in Budhni seat in Sehore district. The BJP also announced its fourth and final list of seven candidates for the polls.

The Congress left one seat, Jatara, for its ally Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD).

With an apparent objective to tie down Shivraj Singh Chouhan in his bastion Budhni, the opposition party picked up former Union Minister and former state Congress chief Yadav as his opponent.

The Yadav community accounts for a large number of votes, nearly twice that of Kirars, an OBC community to which Mr Chouhan belongs, a source in Sehore district said.

Mr Chouhan has been elected from Budhni thrice in a row. Arun Yadav will file his nomination papers on Friday, party sources said.

The Congress left a seat in Jatara, reserved for SC candidate, for LJD in the party’s final list. The LJD might field Vikram Choudhary from Jatara, sources said.

“With the final list out, we have declared candidates for 229 out of 230 seats,” MP Congress spokesman Pankaj Chaturvedi said.

In 2013, Shivraj Singh Chouhan had defeated Congress’s Mahendra Singh Chauhan by 84,000 votes from Budhni.

Besides Arun Yadav, the Congress, in the final list, announced candidates for Indore-1 (Sanjay Shukla in place of earlier announced Preeti Agnihotri), Indore-2 (Mohan Singh Sengar), Indore-5 (Satyanarayan Patel), Manpur-ST (Gyanwati Singh) and Ratlam Rural-ST (Thavar Lal Bhuria).

The BJP, in a surprise move in its final list, nominated a woman candidate, Fatima Rasul Siddaki, against Congress’s sitting MLA Arif Aqueel from Bhopal North.

Other seats for which it announced candidates were: Pawai (Prahlad Lodhi), Panna (Brijendra Singh), Lakhnadoun-ST (Vijay Uike), Seoni-Malwa (Prem Shankar Verma in place of former minister Sartaj Singh, who quit BJP at the last moment to join Congress in protest), Mahidpur (Bahadur Singh Chauhan) and Garoth (Devilal Dhakar).

With this, BJP has announced its candidates for all 230 seats in the state, party spokesperson Sarvesh Tiwari said.

Former BJP Union Minister Sartaj Singh to Contest from Hoshangabad in Madhya Pradesh Polls

Congress in its fifth list of the 16 candidates proclaimed former BJP Union Minister Sartaj Singh as its candidate from Hoshangabad constituency. Madhya Pradesh will go for polls on November 28.

Minutes after the BJP scion left the party- which denied him ticket in its third list- on Thursday, Congress said it is buckled up for the elections.

Singh, 71, a sitting Member of Legislative Assembly or MLA from Seoni-Malwa, will take on Madhya Pradesh Assembly Speaker and BJP candidate Sitasharan Sharma in Hoshangabad.

Among the new faces fielded by the Congress in the fifth list is Vinay Saxena who will contest from Jabalpur North.

The party is yet to announce candidates for Budhni (Sehore district), Manpur (Dhar), Indore-2, Indore-5 and Jatara (Tikamgarh).

It is hunting for a heavy-weight candidate against Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the BJP’s face for the polls, in his bastion Budhni, so that he is confined to his constituency, Congress sources said.

The ruling BJP is yet to announce six candidates. Sartaj Singh is the third senior BJP leader in the state to join the Congress after Sanjay Sharma and Padma Shukla. Mr Sharma is the sitting BJP MLA from Tendukhenda in Seoni district.

The Congress has nominated the former union minister from Seoni-Malwa constituency for the upcoming polls.

Ms Shukla, who resigned as the state Social Welfare Board chief and quit the BJP, has bagged Congress nomination from Vijjayraghavgarh constituency in Katni district.

Besides, the Congress has given ticket to Sanjay Singh Masani, brother-in-law of chief minister Chouhan, from Waraseoni in Balaghat district.

Waraseoni is currently represented by BJP’s Yogendra Nirmal. Mr Masani’s name figured in the Congress’ fourth list, released Wednesday night.

The Congress had announced its first list on November 3. In the current Assembly, the party has 57 MLAs.

The Congress has been out of power in Madhya Pradesh since 2003. The incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government is seeking a fourth straight term.

Shivraj Singh Chouhan Intimidated Congress of Ensuing Legal Proceedings

Rahul Gandhi made dreadful remarks for Madhya Pradesh’s Chief Minister’s son, during his two days visit in the poll bound state. Retaliating to the the Congress President’s remarks, Shivraj Singh Chouhan has threatened the former with legal arsenal, affirming to sue the former.

Shivraj Singh Chouhan had called out Rahul Gandhi for alleging at a rally that his son’s name had figured in the Panama papers.

Chouhan hit back in a midnight tweet. “Mr @RahulGandhi You have been making patently false allegations of Vyapam to Panama Papers against me and my family. Tomorrow, I am filing a criminal defamation suit for maximum damages against you for frivolous and malafide statements,” Chouhan said, responding hours later.

Gandhi had attacked the BJP for corruption during his campaign in the state where the BJP has been in power for 15 straight years, singling out Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s son“His (Chouhan’s) son’s name figures in the Panama papers. Pakistan’s ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s name is found in Panama papers. In the country like Pakistan, he (Sharif) is put behind bars. But here the chief minister’s son’s name is found in Panama papers but no action is taken in this regard),” Gandhi said at a rally in tribal-dominated Jhabua.

Rahul Gandhi responded to the tweet with an explanation why he got mixed up.

“There is so much corruption in the BJP that I got confused. Madhya Pradesh chief minister wasn’t involved in Panama, it was the e-tendering and Vyapam scam,” Gandhi said.

Determined to make a point, Chouhan’s son later filed a defamation case against the Congress president.

Gandhi has, for months, targeted the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government for corruption, attacking the chief minister for the Vyapam (Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board) scam and the e-tendering scam related to alleged manipulation of State Electronic Development Corporation’s nine tenders worth Rs 3,000 crore.

In neighbouring Chhattisgarh, Gandhi has repeatedly alleged that Chief Minister Raman Singh’s son held offshore accounts according to the leaked Panama papers. The BJP rejects the charge.

Magicians Will Run the Show for BJP in Madhya Pradesh’s Poll Rally

As per the rudimentary reports divulged by BJP’s spokesperson Rajnish Agrawal about the stratagem of the poll rally to be conducted in Madhya Pradesh.

The party would be roping in magicians to highlight the work done by it in the last 15 years and compare it with that of the previous Congress government, state BJP spokesman, Rajnish Agrawal told PTI.

“We have plans to hire magicians for campaigning and publicity,” he said, adding that magic shows would be organised at market places to reach out to voters, especially in rural and semi-urban areas.

The number of magicians to be utilised for this is yet to be decided. But, the BJP hopes to start the magic shows soon and budget allocation for these activities is also being worked out, Mr Agrawal said.

“With this art, we are going to tell people about what the BJP government has done for people, especially the weaker sections of society in Madhya Pradesh in the last 15 years,” the spokesman said.

The magic shows would also highlight the “poor condition” of roads, electricity supply and basic amenities during the 10-year Congress government headed by Digvijaya Singh between 1993 and 2003 in the state, he said.

The Madhya Pradesh assembly polls will be held on November 28 and counting of votes will take place on December 11.