Madhya Pradesh is all set to see a close-fitting electoral contest between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress. Shivraj Singh Chauhan ruled the state for a long period and there is definitely an anti-incumbency. Until the previous month, people, especially the business class and government employees, were not in favor of him, but somehow frequent Modi rallies and visits by Amit Shah have changed the scenario in favor of the BJP. The BJP has been in power for almost 20 years since 2003, except for a brief 15-month period between December 2018 and March 2020. Eighteen years and eight months is a pretty long enough period for developing anti-incumbency. Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who has been Chief Minister for most of this period, is suffering from voter fatigue, as per analysts; this fact has been admitted by the party too, which is shying away from declaring him as its CM.
Four opinion polls conducted for the Madhya Pradesh elections so far have predicted contradictory outcomes for the political parties. While two have predicted a clear win for the Congress, two predict a repeat of the BJP government under CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan. The magic figure needed to form a government is 116. According to the ABP-CVoter survey, the Congress could win 108–120 seats out of the 230 seats, while the BJP is projected to finish at a marginally lower tally of 106–118. Another pre-poll survey conducted by IBC24 predicts that the Congress will appear as the clear winner, bagging 119 seats, while the BJP may end up with 101 seats, lower than its 2018 tally of 109.
In the meantime, according to a survey by Times Now, the BJP will have a landslide victory, winning 153 seats in the 230-member Assembly, and the Congress might just get 58 seats. The pre-poll survey by News Nation also gave a thumbs up to the BJP with a huge majority. While the BJP has maintained that it is going to contest the Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections under the leadership of Shivraj Singh Chouhan, it remains unclear who will be the CM candidates for the other parties: Congress, BSP, Samajwadi Party, and Aam Aadmi Party. However, for the Congress, the name of former Chief Minister Kamal Nath is speculated. Earlier, BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya confirmed that Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan will be the face of the party for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Kailash is aspiring to be a deputy, but this is a remote possibility. Kamalnath winning his seat is also very tricky because he has a very strong Congress contender to deal with. So, the mandate in his constituency is for Congress.
For the Congress, Rajya Sabha MP and former chief minister Digvijaya Singh had said that the Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections will be fought under the leadership of state Congress president Kamal Nath, who will be the CM face. Digvijay Singh has given up his aspirations for the top post and is now rigorously making efforts to bring Congress to power. In 2018, when Nath took over as CM in December following the Congress’ victory, he was then a Lok Sabha MP from Chhindwara. To continue as chief minister, he had to become an MLA within six months. For this purpose, a by-poll to the Chhindwara assembly seat was held after its MLA, Deepak Saxena, a close lieutenant of Nath, resigned from the state assembly. The Chhindwara Assembly constituency by-poll was held along with the Lok Sabha elections, which Nath won and later took oath as an MLA.
In the last Assembly elections that were held in 2018, the Congress stormed to power in the state, along with two other states—Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. In the 230-member Madhya Pradesh Assembly, the Congress party emerged as the single largest party with 114 seats against the BJP’s 109 seats, overthrowing the BJP’s 15-year rule. The schedule for the 2023 Madhya Pradesh elections is yet to be announced by the Election Commission of India (ECI). As soon as the ECI announces the dates of the elections, the Model Code of Conduct will come into force with immediate effect. The last elections in Madhya Pradesh in 2018 took place in a single-phase for all 230 seats on November 28, 2018. The counting of votes took place on December 11, 2018. There are 230 assembly seats in Madhya Pradesh. In the 2018 elections, the Congress had bagged 114 seats, short of a majority of 116 seats, and the BJP finished a close second with 109 seats. The Bahujan Samaj Party had won two seats and the Samajwadi Party one seat. Four seats were bagged by independents. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had won his traditional Budhni seat by a margin of 58,699 votes, defeating Congress’ Arun Yadav.
Congress leader Kamal Nath was sworn in as the Chief Minister of the state in 2018. However, 15 months later, stumped by the resurgence of party colleague Jyodiraditya Scindia, who joined the BJP and the resignations of 22 Congress MLAs, Kamal Nath stepped down and resigned as the Chief Minister, following which BJP leader Shivraj Singh Chouhan returned as the CM of the state for the fourth time. There are 74 seats in Madhya Pradesh that Congress hasn’t won in the last three assembly elections, while the corresponding number of BJP seats is only 11. The weak organization in these 74 seats burdens Congress with having to win the remaining 156 seats at an unrealistically high strike rate. Along with that, the polls have suggested a very tough fight between the BJP and the Congress, Kamal Nath vs. Shivraj Singh Chauhan. But after the polls, the Chief Minister, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, will have to look over his shoulder and perhaps see other potential chief minister candidates.
This year, Congress and BJP are locked in a close battle in Madhya Pradesh, with most surveys predicting a photo finish similar to the one witnessed in 2018, when the BJP won 109 seats and Congress 114 in a house of 230. This year’s MP assembly election will be very surprising because we will be able to see both major parties in the same light, according to the opinion polls. Lastly, one has to believe that “jo jitega vahi sikandar” (whoever wins, makes it to power).