Madhya Pradesh is no Uttar Pradesh. It lacks the political excitement and caste conspiracies of India’s most electorally sensational state. Madhya Pradesh is also no northeast state with its fast-changing political landscape, or Karnataka with the murky resort and money politics. Or even Bihar with its distinct brand of leaders.
Madhya Pradesh has been reasonably electorally predictable for a while, often even bordering on the boring. And yet, this week, if anything besides the novel coronavirus grabbed headlines in India, it was this state. And that is why Madhya Pradesh is ThePrint’s newsmaker of the week.
The state’s otherwise staid politics saw a spark in the 2018 assembly election with the results turning into a bit of a cliffhanger and the Congress managing to make it to the finishing line by a whisker. Then, of course, the big question over who then-Congress president Rahul Gandhi will pick as the chief minister added more flavour to the election.
It is in the past week, however, that Madhya Pradesh seems to have reached its full potential of being a political potboiler, with enough thrills to keep everyone in India perched on the edge of their seats.
The week that was
This year’s Holi was made even more colourful when Jyotiraditya Scindia, for long resentful and edgy, resigned from the Congress.
A Gandhi-family loyalist and every bit the elite, English-speaking Lutyens’ Congress leader, Scindia’s exit was hyped and his next move, furiously speculated. That he would join the BJP was not the biggest mystery, but the question of ‘when’ continued to linger for the next 24 hours until the leader finally joined the BJP on 11 March. But not without some Rahu kaal drama.
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More fascinating, however, has been the fate of the Kamal Nath-led government. Will it survive, given that 22 of its MLAs have also resigned? After Karnataka, will Home Minister Amit Shah pull off another coup by ensuring that the BJP comes to power irrespective of whether it won the mandate in the assembly election? And, finally, how much will the resort business flourish considering the defectors were housed in Karnataka, the Congress MLAs are in Jaipur and the BJP MLAs in Gurugram?
For now, the Congress is precariously balanced at the edge of a precipice and is trying to do all it can to keep itself afloat. The BJP, meanwhile, is hardly the party that will let go of a smooth opportunity such as this.
In no hurry to exit the news cycle
For decades now, the state has remained loyal to the BJP, whose leader Shivraj Singh Chouhan was the chief minister for three consecutive terms. Even though the Congress managed to just about win the 2018 assembly election, the BJP swept the state in the 2019 Lok Sabha election six months later.
With 29 Lok Sabha seats, Madhya Pradesh is an important bloc. What makes it even more significant is that like its other heartland counterpart — Rajasthan — the polity of this state has remained bipolar, with the Congress and the BJP being the only big players. The Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party have, at most, remained fringe players.
The stakes, therefore, for both the Congress and the BJP are high. It is in direct contests like these that the asymmetry between the voter acceptance of the two main stakeholders gets accentuated. Then, there is also the ‘prestige’ of ruling this large, heartland state — which helps in amplifying the message of power to the rest of India.
With the situation now on the brink, and both the BJP and the Congress on tenterhooks, Madhya Pradesh is in no hurry to exit the news cycle or people’s mind space anytime soon.
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