Discontent among the BJP leaders denied party tickets to contest Vidhan Sabha election in Madhya Pradesh and their supporters in the party’s rank and file is slowly acquiring dangerous dimension, a situation which is potentially frustrating for the BJP’s state and Central leaderships, particularly the Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and PM Narendra Modi.
Madhya Pradesh is the only state ruled by BJP among the five going to poll in November. Retaining power in the state has never been perceived easy by the Central BJP leadership due to gradually diminishing popularity of the state government led by CM Chouhan on the one hand and growing popularity of the Congress on the other. Additionally, the autocratic way of functioning of Chouhan has earned several enemies from within who even opposed him to be projected as CM face. It was a manifestation of severe level of infighting in the party, which refused to die down even when Central party leadership avoided to project any CM face, under an honourable fragrance of “Collective Leadership” that failed to perfume the rottenness.
The discontent has even exacerbated since the ticket distribution by the Central leadership began on August 17. Even after two months and one week on October 23, 2023, the Central BJP leadership has clearly failed in containing the infighting, which is a real danger for the party’s political prospect in general and PM Narendra Modi’s in particular who will be seeking for third term in the forthcoming Lok Sabha election in 2024.
It is because, the state has given all the 25 Lok Sabha seat to the BJP in 2019 election, even though the state has thrown the BJP out of power just about six months ago in 2018 Vidhan Sabha election. It happened because Pulwama attack in February 2019 had created a sentiment among the electorate generating a wave in favour of BJP to ride on. PM Modi has now appealed the electorate to vote in his name but it is yet uncertain that in absence of any wave, the so-called Modi factor or charisma is going to work.
Modi factor is not even working within the party which is reflected in continued infighting, discontent, and protests. It was not even working in 2018, when the state had rejected the BJP rule since 2003, and the then chief minister for three terms Mr Shivraj Singh Chouhan. It showed the deep discontentment among the electorate of the state against the BJP’s misrule for 15 years in general, and against CM Chouhan in particular.
People brought the Congress in 2018 by giving the party majority seat, however, the BJP and Chouhan succeeded in toppling the Congress government in 2020 after engineering defect in Congress. Jyotiraditya Scindia had defected from the Congress and joined the BJP ranks. However, discontent within the BJP and among electorate has continued which prevented PM Narendra Modi to make him CM face this time.
Discontent and protest within BJP rank and file surfaced after every list of candidates – since August 2023 which the first list of 39 candidates was released. Party released the second list of 39 candidates on September 25, third list of one candidate on September 26, fourth list of 57 candidates on October 9, and fifth list of 92 candidates on October 2023. Barring Guna and Vidisha, the party has already declared candidates for 228 seats out of 230 in the state.
BJP’s central leadership have been landed into great trouble in selecting their candidates on Guna and Vidisha seats on account of the worse level of infighting than anywhere in the state. Jyotiraditya Scindia has vetoed in cast of Guna and RSS and the BJP leadership have five candidates in their list for Vidisha. It is clear that a tussle has erupted for dominance within the party between RSS and BJP on the one hand, and between Scindia and Chouhan loyalist on the other. There are several other RSS and BJP groups in the field who fear each other of working for cross purposes to defeat the opposition camp in the election aiming at to dominate within after the election results are out in December. Every section wants their more and more candidate to win while sabotaging the enemy camp to become chief minister in the event of BJP’s gaining majority. The “Collective Leadership” is thus not going smoothly.
The last protest demonstration by BJP rank and file against the ticket distribution was even worse. BJP workers in Jabalpur protested on October 21 at the BJP divisional office and surrounded Union Minister Bhupender Yadav signalling intensification of discontent. The agitated BJP workers even refused to listen to Yadav and when a security guard tried to intervene, he was quickly overpowered and assaulted. Police have even registered an FIR over the incident and three persons were arrested. The protestors were protesting against the Chouhan camp, and the worse is that they were not from the defected Congress camp. They have been old BJP workers and leaders. The BJP MLA since 2003 to 2018, who lost only by 578 votes in 2018 had been denied ticket this time. It was an example of BJP’s insiders’ fight, not between turncoats from other parties including the Congress.
Next day on October 22, Gwalior was the scene, that represents fight between the BJP’s old timers and the turncoats from the Congress. One of the supporters of Union Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia and ex-MLA Munnalal Goyal laid down in front of Scindia’s car to protest BJP’s decision to filed Maya Singh from Gwalior East by denying him ticket. It should be noted that Munnalal Goyal had won the seat in 2018 as Congress candidate and was one of the leaders who had defected to BJP with Scindia.
Discontent and protests from within the BJP have emerged across the states and constituencies, that may, coupled with anti-incumbency, frustrate BJP and PM Modi’s hope of retaining power in the state, though they are pinning hope on disarrayed and divided INDIA alliance partners on the one hand and infighting in the resurgent Congress on the other. (IPA Service)