The BJP’s big push to change its fortunes in the region, which had spurned it in the last Madhya Pradesh assembly polls, seems to be facing some headwinds as regional factors take precedence and the Congress’ pitch for change challenges the ruling party’s narrative woven around the planks of development and welfarism.
Across several constituencies of the Chambal-Gwalior region, Prime Minister Narendra Modi largely draws unreserved praise for his stewardship of the country but many of the same voters also talk of the need for “badlav” (change) in the state, offering mixed views on Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led government and voicing a litany of complaints.
If there is some acknowledgement about his government’s claim of improvement in conditions of road, electricity and water supply, many also question its overall record and express wariness with Chouhan’s 18-year-old reign, save for the Congress’ brief 15-month-old tenure under Kamal Nath after the 2018 polls, since 2005.
Issues like price rise, unemployment, bureaucratic apathy, corruption and stray cattle are listed by a cross-section of voters in their criticism of the government.
Some voters express their sympathy with the BJP because of their support to Modi. The factors which appear to be helping the BJP include its showpiece welfare initiatives like the Ladli Behna Yojna, a cash transfer scheme for poor women, and a similar cash transfer scheme for farmers launched by the Centre.
A group of farmers in Hurawali Tiraha in Gwalior say that it is not uncommon for women in their households to cite the Ladli Behna Yojna to voice their support for Chouhan when men in families criticise his government.
“If Shivraj sends me money every month, then I should also be grateful,” Malti Srivas says while her husband Sudhir Srivas, a barber, expresses his unhappiness with the government.
However, one of the more frequent refrains is the need for “badlav”. At Karah Dham, a famous shrine dedicated to a revered local saint, Gauri Shankar Sharma describes himself as a nationalist and says the BJP has done good work at the Centre and the state. The local prasad-seller then adds, “When one person or family becomes all-powerful in a village, then everybody has to bow to him. It is not good. There should be ’badlav’.” A group of devotees drawn to the temple in Morena from different places complain of corruption and bureaucratic insensitivity to people.
With inputs from News18