While it is not yet clear under whose leadership the BJP will contest the upcoming assembly elections in Rajasthan or Chhattisgarh, the party has decided to go to the polls in Madhya Pradesh under the leadership of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan once again. Like the BJP, the Congress party will also rely on its battle-hardened veteran Kamal Nath.
BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya also confirmed that the party will contest the next general elections for the Lok Sabha seat under the leadership of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. "He will be the face of our party," he said while talking to journalists in Jabalpur recently.
On the speculation amongst a section of the media that he was likely the BJP’s candidate for the chief ministerial post, Vijayvargiya said he had only come to know that he was in the race for the post through the media. "There is a clear consensus in the party on its policies," he said.
Meanwhile, the BJP leadership and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) have already started working to ensure the saffron party's victory in more than 200 seats in Madhya Pradesh as part of the party's 'Abki Baar 200 Paar' campaign. The BJP started its campaign from Chhindwara mainly because Congress is in complete control of the district, right from the Lok Sabha seat to the municipal corporation to the district and panchayat levels. The Chhindwara Lok Sabha seat was won by Nakul Nath, son of Kamal Nath, who will lead the party in the assembly elections scheduled for later this year. Currently, Kamal Nath is the MLA from the Chhindwara Vidhan Sabha seat.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP had won 28 out of 29 seats in the state but Chhindwara was the only seat where it suffered a defeat. The recurring defeat in Chhindwara since the 1980s, except for one occasion, has always bothered the BJP.
Experts believe there are more than 8 lakh tribal voters in Chhindwara whom the BJP is trying to woo this time. The Amarwara, Junnardeo and Pandhurna constituencies in Chhindwara district are reserved seats for the tribals where Congress candidates had won last time.
The BJP recently sent Union Rural Development and Panchayat Minister Giriraj Singh to make inroads into the Congress stronghold of Chhindwara. He attended many programmes during his three-day visit there.
Talking to the media, Singh said that the upcoming assembly elections would be different and the BJP would bag all 230 seats in Madhya Pradesh.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah also reached Chhindwara a few days after Giriraj Singh's visit. Addressing the party's Mahavijay Udghosh Jansabha, Shah promised that the BJP would win all seven assembly seats in the region and also the Lok Sabha seat in 2024. At the event, he also threw questions at Kamal Nath, asking what the Congress leader had done for 15 months while his government was in power in the state.
"People gave you a chance. What did you do?" he asked. Amit Shah claimed that the programmes started by the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government were also stopped by the Kamal Nath government. "Both Kamal Nath and the Congress party only make promises,” he said.
Incidentally, the BJP has handed over the command of Chhindwara district to Vivek Bunty Sahu, who contested the 2018 assembly by-election against then Chief Minister Kamal Nath. He was defeated by 25,837 votes. Last month, BJP national president JP Nadda also came to Bhopal and hailed the Ladli Bahna Yojana being implemented by the state government as a revolutionary step.
Under this programme, poor and lower-middle-class women are given 1,000 rupees per month. Women aged 23 to 60 years, whose family income is less than Rs 2.5 lakh and who do not own more than 5 acres of land or a four-wheeled vehicle, are eligible for the scheme. The forms for the programme can be filled in by April 30. Once the forms are scrutinised in May, the beneficiaries will get Rs 1,000 per month directly transferred to their accounts. Experts believe that the successful implementation of this programme will strengthen the BJP's position in the state.
Meanwhile, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) cadres in Madhya Pradesh also seem to be in action mode. Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat arrived in Bhopal on the occasion of the birth centenary of martyr Hemu Kalani. In his address, Bhagwat called for renouncing petty temptations for the good of the country. He spoke about the dream of a united India and said that everyone should be ready to achieve this goal. "I do not know if and how it will happen, but Akhand Bharat is a reality that will come true," Bhagwat said.
After touring Bhopal, Bhagwat visited Burhanpur and Jabalpur and received feedback from there too. Over the last month, Bhagwat has visited three different areas in the state, which political pundits link to the preparations for the assembly.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also reached Bhopal to flag off the first Vande Bharat train at Rani Kamlapati railway station. On the occasion, he told the people that they had given him the privilege of inaugurating the modern and grand Rani Kamlapati railway station. "You all have given me the opportunity to inaugurate India's most modern Vande Bharat train to Delhi from here. In modern India, new arrangements and new traditions are being created," he said. "Today's ceremony is a perfect example of that."
A few days later, on the occasion of National Panchayati Raj Day, the Prime Minister reached the Special Armed Forces compound in Rewa to inaugurate projects worth more than Rs 17,000 crores for the development of Madhya Pradesh. In his speech, he also specifically mentioned several schemes being implemented by the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government.
In the rival camp, the Congress has made its position clear regarding its CM face. Veteran party leader and former chief minister Digvijay Singh told reporters in Vidisha district, "We have only one face in Madhya Pradesh and that is Kamal Nath".
No wonder Shivraj and Kamal Nath have become very aggressive against each other in recent times. Whether on social media platforms, at election rallies or in the state assembly, the war of words between them has intensified. In the run-up to the state assembly elections, the stage looks set for yet another fervent battle between the old arch-rivals in Madhya Pradesh politics.