Supporters of BJP carry flags during a rally in Bhopal
BJP flags at a rally | Representational image | Bloomberg
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New Delhi: After expanding his cabinet, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is now gearing up for the bypolls, likely to be held in September, as his government’s stability rests on it. The bypolls are to be held on 24 assembly seats.

According to BJP sources, the party has planned 60 virtual rallies in the first phase of the campaigning, which began last month, and 24 physical rallies in the second phase, which will begin from August. The BJP plans to finish all the rallies before Union Home Minister Amit Shah and party national president J.P. Nadda hit the campaign trail.

The BJP will also use 65,000 WhatsApp groups to reach out to people with their poll narrative.

Nadda and Union minister Nitin Gadkari have already addressed one virtual rally each in the state last month.

Ahead of the election, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will virtually inaugurate Asia’s biggest 750 MW solar power project in Rewa on 10 July.

Also read: In Covid crisis, Madhya Pradesh deserves better than a CM acting as health minister

‘Shivraj and Scindia-jodi to ensure BJP’s victory’ 

CM Chouhan and BJP leader Jyotiraditya Scindia addressed a joint virtual rally Tuesday at Karera assembly segment.

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The chief minister had addressed two physical rallies in Indore in mid-June, while Scindia had addressed virtual rallies at Ashok Nagar, Mungaoli and Bamori assembly segments in the last few days.

Party sources said Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar will address the Dimani assembly virtually on 9 July.

“We have planned 60 virtual rallies in 24 assembly segments in the first phase. Then another set of leaders will address the same assembly segments in the second phase. After the first phase, the chief minister and Scindia ji will start physical rallies jointly. Shivraj and Scindia-jodi (pair) will ensure BJP’s victory in the bypolls. You have seen how Scindia ji is aggressively campaigning in those seats,” state BJP vice-president Rameshwar Sharma told ThePrint.

Push for development narrative 

One of the main poll planks for the BJP will be Chouhan’s focus on development.

The chief minister, during his three-day Delhi tour that ended Tuesday, met several Union ministers — R.K. Singh (power), Tomar (agriculture), Ram Vilas Paswan (food and consumer affairs), Dharmendra Pradhan (petroleum) — and requested them to expedite the developmental projects of Madhya Pradesh ahead of the elections, said a BJP source.

Chouhan also invited power minister Singh to be present on the day when PM Modi will inaugurate the solar power project, which is spread over 1,590 acres of land and its total cost is around Rs 4,000 crore.

A BJP leader, who didn’t want to be named, told ThePrint this project inauguration will push the development narrative before the elections. This will set the tone of development versus loot narrative of former Congress CM Kamal Nath in the entire state, he added.

BJP sources told ThePrint that during a video conference on 4 July between Gadkari, Chouhan, Tomar and Scindia, the ambitious Chambal Expressway project was discussed.

The 400-km expressway, connecting Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, is one of the biggest poll planks for the BJP as it comes under the Gwalior-Chambal region, where 16 assembly seats fall, a party source added.

The source said Gadkari has asked the chief minister to acquire land for the project and get environmental clearance at the earliest.

At a virtual rally on 5 July, Scindia had said the expressway will change the life of Gwalior-Chambal region.

To give further push to the party’s development narrative, Chouhan also met Defence Minister Rajnath Singh during his Delhi visit and urged him to expedite the establishment of a Sainik school either in Bhind or in Morena.

Singh is learnt to have assured Chouhan of starting the construction of the school soon. 

Chouhan also met agricultural minister Tomar Monday in New Delhi and requested for a GI tag for Basmati rice grown in 13 districts of Madhya Pradesh, including Bhind, Morena, Gwalior, Shivpuri and Jabalpur.

Chouhan said Basmati rice produced in the state is exported to various foreign countries contributing annually to the tune of Rs 3,000 crore towards foreign exchange.

“Denying GI tag to the rice produced in these 13 districts will be grave injustice to the farmers of the state and their livelihood,” he said during the meeting.

State BJP vice-president Prabhat Jha told ThePrint this developmental push will be the party’s core narrative.

“Kamal Nath ji has nothing to show. The BJP has many projects to show. We are trying to tell voters how the Congress regime’s focus was not on development, but to loot the state,” he said.

In the last three days, Scindia, during his virtual rallies, targeted Kamal Nath, saying farmers’ loans were not waived off and monthly unemployment bonus was also not given.

“Vallav Bhavan (chief minister’s office) was open only for middle men. No waive off of farmers’ loans was given by Kamal Nath, which was promised during elections. He has time for heroes and heroines, IIFA awards, but not for youths, who are waiting for an unemployment bonus. This is dharma yudh, which we will win with Shivraj ji,” Scindia said in one of the virtual rallies.

Also read: Has politics in Madhya Pradesh damaged its battle against coronavirus?

65,000 WhatApp groups and 250 Facebook pages  

The BJP will be using 65,000 WhatsApp groups and 250 Facebook pages to promote virtual rallies of its leaders.

The party has also constituted IT cell heads in every polling booth that falls in the 24 assembly segments.

“Our entire focus is to reach people. Soon, we will start physical meetings, but since meetings will not be large as compared to earlier, we have created WhatsApp groups and IT cell heads, which will play an instrumental role in reaching out to people,” said a member of the BJP’s newly constituted 22-member election management committee.

Congress focus on physical rallies 

Last week, the Congress held meetings to oversee election preparedness in presence of Mukul Wasnik, MP congress in-charge. 

Sources said the party has completed the process of selecting probable candidates.

On Tuesday, Kamal Nath visited Mahakal temple in Ujjain to seek blessings. He also held meetings with nearly 1,000 party workers.

“Our focus is on physical rallies. We want to connect with people directly. Kamal Nath ji and Digvijay Singh ji will visit all the 24 constituencies. We will expose Scindia and every turncoat MLA in every constituency,” a Congress MLA told ThePrint.

Also read: Madhya Pradesh’s edge-of-the-seat politics gave tough competition to coronavirus on headlines


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