BHOPAL: Over 5 crore voters will vote to elect legislators for the 230-seats strong Madhya Pradesh Assembly on Wednesday.
According to official figures, the 5,04,95,251 voters include over 62,000 service voters (voters of the state employed with defence forces in other states and those working in embassies and high commissions abroad).
A total of 65,367 booths have been deployed across the 52 districts of the state and votes will be cast on Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) attached to Voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines. Around 17,000 polling stations have been categorised as critical, where peaceful polling will be ensured through heightened security measures such as webcasting, CCTV camera surveillance and a higher deployment of central security forces and micro observers.
While a total of 2,899 candidates are in fray, the prime contest is likely to be between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Congress in 190-odd seats, while 30-40 more seats are likely to witness triangular and quadrangular contests owing to presence of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Samajawadi Party (SP), the Gondwana Gantantra Party (GGP), the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the SAPAKS Party, besides rebel candidates of both the leading parties who are contesting Independently.
In the 2013 elections, when over 72% polling was reported, the BJP won 165 seats with a vote share of around 45%. The Congress won 58 seats with a 36% share while the BSP won four seats with over 6% votes, while the remaining three seats were won by Independents.
According to political observers, Wednesday’s election will be a very close contest, particularly between the BJP and Congress. The electoral result of this contest is crucial for both parties. While the outcome for the BJP, which has been in power in MP since 2003, may have a bearing on the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the Congress is considering the battle for MP as a “now or never” contest.
While the BJP has declared the present CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan as its CM face, the Congress hasn’t declared anyone as CM candidate, particularly to prevent any internal tussle among various factions within the party’s state unit ahead of polls.
Hectic campaigning was witnessed in the state over the last three weeks, with all big BJP and Congress leaders hitting the campaign trail. While PM Narendra Modi addressed 10 rallies, the national BJP president Amit Shah addressed 23 rallies, union minister Smriti Irani addressed 22 rallies. The maximum 149 rallies were addressed by CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan who is facing a daunting task of retaining the power for fourth consecutive time before a resurgent Congress and amid pressure of 15 years of anti-incumbency and corruption allegations against his government.
The ruling party’s fortunes could also be dented due to anger of upper caste against the SC/ST Act amendment, particularly in the Vindhyan and Gwalior-Chambal region, besides presence of around two dozen party rebels contesting as independents or as candidates of smaller parties.
The Congress, on the other hand, is banking on anti-incumbency factor against the BJP and no 2013-like Modi wave in favour of the ruling party. Among its top leaders, while national president Rahul Gandhi addressed 21 poll rallies in the state, state party’s campaign committee chief Jyotiraditya Scindia addressed 110 rallies and state party chief Kamal Nath addressed 55 rallies.
While the BJP is contesting the polls with the guiding slogan Abki Baar 200 Paar (200-plus seats this time), the Congress is banking on its slogan of Waqt Hai Badlav Ka (It’s time for Change).
While polling will be held on 227 seats from 8 am to 5 pm, the time of polling will be between 7 am and 3 pm in three seats of naxal-affected Balaghat district.
“We’re targeting 80% polling and all arrangements have been made for peaceful and free-fair polling. 650 companies of central security forces and around 80,000 personnel of MP police have been deployed across the state for ensuring peaceful polling,” said Chief Electoral Officer (CEO MP) VL Kantha Rao.