With a clutch of small and regional political outfits throwing their hat in the electoral ring, the upcoming assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh may not be a two-horse race—as elections have always been in the state. These parties may muddy the waters for the two key players—the BJP and the Congress. To date, the Samajwadi Party (SP), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Gondwana Gantantra Party (GGP), the Jai Adivasi Yuva Shakti (JAYS), the Samanya Pichhda Evum Alpasankhyak Varg Adhikari Karmachari Sanstha (SAPAKS) party, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the Janata Dal (United) (JDU) and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) have announced they would be fielding candidates. Some of them intend to contest all the 230 seats. The NCP says it will join the fray in 200 constituencies, while JAYS, headed by Dr Heeralal Alawa and entering the arena with the slogan ‘Abki baar, adivasi sarkar’ (this time, an adivasi government), will stick to 80 seats where adivasi voters have a decisive say. The assembly has 47 seats reserved for the STs, while adivasi votes impact the results significantly in 40 other constituencies. Presently, 32 ST seats are held by the BJP, 14 by the Congress and one by an Independent. The huge turnouts at JAYS rallies have forced the Congress and the BJP to look up and take notice.
The SAPAKS, which has support of the elite castes, gained momentum after the ordinance on SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act was brought by the central government recently. While SAPAKS has raised challenges for the BJP, the Congress is upset with the BSP’s decision to contest all the seats in MP and JAYS’s plan to contest in the adivasi-dominated seats. Yet Congress leader Bhupendra Gupta says, “All the small groups put together can’t garner enough seats to pose a threat to our party. We will be able to win this time without any alliance as the anti-incumbency votes will go to the Congress.” And a senior BJP leader asserts that JAYS will gobble up the Congress’s adivasi votes, benefiting the ruling party.