MP poll: Opening for Congressabout 2,500 kilometres,

MP poll: Opening for Congressabout 2,500 kilometres,
The door is in Central India - for the Indian Janata Party (BJP) to exit and the Congress to enter the corridors of power in Bhopal. That is the impression we collected after about 2,500 kilometres, touching interior areas of all regions, starting clockwise, from Malwa - both north and south, Middle Bharath-Bhopal, Chambal-Gwalior, Bundelkhand, Bagelkhand and Mahakoshal between last week of October and the first week of November

We meet farmers, farm labours, young people from both urban and rural areas, government employees, traders, women farm workers as well as home makers, professionals such as doctors and lawyers, small businessmen, advocates, and campuses in students. In the process, inescapably, we also meet people who are affiliated to major political parties We have not been elected as political leaders or opinion makers. We talked about all these areas in the state

The method was not about administering a questionnaire to generate quantitative data and arrive at percentages of vote share and number or seats of each party. It was about gathering of qualitative data in contradistinction to quantitative data. The method adopted was to conduct a series of rather long conversations with individuals and small groups (not exceeding six members) to understand their socio-economic condition in order to grasp what issues were and how their life experiences those issues with grappling Did you like to vote?

It was to sniff the air, so to speak, and see The overwhelming sense that our team gathered was that not a single person among those we met is the upcoming election. They are completely aware of their participation in it. Polling in this election, therefore, is likely to be on the higher side.

Acute farm distress is evident from the conversations in the countryside. 'Bhavantar', a state government's scheme to give price support to farmers is unlikely to yield any substantial dividends to the ruling party Deep Resentment Anger against demonetisation is likely to wound the ruling establishment in the forthcoming Assembly elections. Lack of employment opportunities have been alienated in both rural and urban areas

Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan's 2016 'Maa ka lal' remark on the SC / ST reservation issue. Many rural women said they would wait for their menfolk and other family members to tell them whom to vote. Or maybe they did not want to reveal their minds to the strangers from Hyderabad.

Significantly, Hindu-Muslim issues, Ram Mandir, the so-called Rafale and Vyapam scams did not find any resonance with the voters. Professionals did mention about the Narendra Modi Government's attempts to weaken the constitutional institutions

Words like 'badlaav' and 'parivartan' are spoken in high decibels across the state, more prominently in the countryside. People who claimed to have voted for the last time said that they want to shift to Congress this time. However, Shivraj Singh Chauhan remains popular Those who want to vote against the BJP, too, acknowledged their good work. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Madhya Pradesh, he is a very popular leader and more influential than the voter. However, the possibility of "Shivraj fatigue" neutralising the impact of his popularity and letting farm distress, price rise, unemployment and demonetisation effects to the ruling party can not be ruled out.

There is still a significant chunk of undecided voters in the State. A good number of them are expected to go along with the tide that becomes evident near the polling day. The majority of the BJP voters said that they will vote in its favour to reward Chief Miniter Chouhan's work and not that of the Prime Minister. Those who loved the Congress were unconcerned about the Chief Ministerial face of the party. They are ready to take anyone who the Congress decides as the Chief Minister after the elections.
Karyakartas of the saffron party, who participated in conversations are assertive about the BJP's winning chances. The Congress workers, on the other hand, are the leaders of the party. It is the common unattached public who is more emphatic about the Congress' chances of forming the Government.

Those who wanted the BJP to win, do not think that an anti-incumbency could have been so deep as to unseat the party. But they are ready to accept that the party will return with more strength in the 230-strong House, and the party's candidates will win with less majorities in the constituencies. Even strong BJP supporters are not ready to think Political headwinds are strongly sensed by the BJP sympathisers and its cadre

The Congress argument, if it has one, is not yet part of the political conversation among voters Chouhan is on a score as well. Congress president, Rahul Gandhi, as a campaigner, is still to make an impression in the State.

State Congress is organizationally an enfeebled entity as the party has been out of office for three consecutive terms. It is a divided house, unable to stitch together a narrative for the state or constituency, region specific variants of the campaign theme. The BJP is ahead on this score.

The large number of conversations that we had given in the state in essence revealed that the state of Madhya Pradesh is not contesting as a BJP and a challenger Congress.
It is a spectacle of the two contenders with strong political headwinds in the form of anti-incumbency, farm distress, price rise, ill-effects of demonetisation, erosion of upper caste support, unemployment and consequent youth apathy, and, "Shivraj's fatigue "

Neither Prime Minister Narendra Modi nor Congress president Rahul Gandhi is likely to play more than a marginal role in the process of the election. The Congress, our conversations across the state reveal, stands to benefit from the failure of the headwinds. And the headwinds are strong at the moment

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