Assembly elections 2018: Stage set for high-stakes battle in Hindi heartland

In these Hindi-speaking States, which form the Bharatiya Janata Party’s core vote base, the Congress appears set to give the saffron party a run for its money.

Published: 07th October 2018 10:55 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th October 2018 11:59 AM   |  A+A-

Image used for representational purpose only. (File Photo)

In the five State elections announced on Saturday, the stakes are highest perhaps in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. In these Hindi-speaking States, which form the Bharatiya Janata Party’s core vote base, the Congress appears set to give the saffron party a run for its money. Anuraag Singh, Ejaz Kaiser and Rajesh Asnani take a look at past elections and explain what is likely to be in store in the winter elections.


Bordering UP, the SP and the BSP have a sizeable presence in the region, particularly in Tikamgarh, Chhatarpur and Sagar districts
2018: With the BSP announcing that it will contest alone, consolidation of opposition votes is unlikely

Vindhya Pradesh
Considered a Congress turf, late Chief Minister Arjun Singh, his son and present leader of the opposition Ajay Singh belong to this region
2018: A stiff fight between the Congress and the BJP is on the cards despite the BSP decision to contest alone

Worries for BJP
After 15 years in power, there is anti-incumbency with strong opposition to over 100 of its 166 MLAs (as per party’s internal surveys). Also, the farmers are upset after the police firing during the Mandsaur farmers’ agitation last year. Dalit groups are also angry after many were killed during the Bharat bandh protest

Divided Opposition
An alliance between the Congress, BSP and other parties could have tilted the balance in the opposition’s favour as their combined vote share of around 45% is slightly more than the BJP’s in 2013 polls. In 2013, the BSP not only won four seats, but finished second in 11 seats while it was third in 15-plus seats. All together, it was a significant player in 30 seats in the Gwalior-Chambal, Bundelkhand and Vindhyan regions

New players
JAYS: A new tribal outfit called the Jai Adivasi Yuva Shakti is getting support in the tribal-dominated Jhabua, Alirajpur, Jhabua, Dhar, Barwani, Khargone, Khandwa and Burhanpur districts. It has decided to field 80 candidates. While this could hurt the BJP, it is likely to damage the Congress more as tribals have traditionally voted for the Congress

SAPAKS: Another new outfit is the Samanya Pichhada Evam Alpsankhyak Varg Samaj, an umbrella organisation of forward castes and OBCs. Its leader is a former IAS officer and has in its ranks many retired bureaucrats and IPS officers. It is against the reservation policy and is getting a lot of traction

This region is considered the BJP’s strongest turf and it also has the maximum number of seats
2018: This region includes the Mandsaur district, which was the epicenter of the violent farmers’ agitation in 2017 in which several died in police firing, setting off a wave of anger against the BJP

Madhya Bharat/Central MP
Until 1998 the Congress and the BJP were neck and neck here but since then the BJP has surged ahead
2018: With no third force present here it has always seen a direct fight between the BJP and the Congress. Since early 2000 the BJP has made this region its stronghold

This region has the ancient Gondwana kingdom with a regional player called the Gondwana Gantantra Party
2018: The faction-ridden Gondwana Gantantra Party secured only 2% votes in 2013 but this time all groups are united and could pose a threat

The BSP has its strongest presence here, with polarisation of votes along caste lines maximum in Gwalior-Chambal and the Vindhya region
2018: With no Congress-BSP alliance non-BJP votes are likely to get split. But there is anger among Dalits against the BJP after seven persons were killed in caste violence during the Bharat Bandh called by Dalit outfits on April 2 


BJP worries
Rajputs are the BJP’s staunch supporters but there is anger against it.  One reason is the Padmaavat controversy, where they felt that the government did not support them. The killing of dreaded Rajput gangster Anandpal Singh by the police also angered them.  He was seen as a man who took on the Jats. Rajputs are also miffed as Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat was not made the State party chief
Split Votes
The BSP’s decision to contest  alone means the anti-BJP votes may get divided. Smaller parties cut through Congress votes in 2013 and negatively affected the results in 50 seats. At least five new parties have been registered this time. One is the Bharat Vahini Party of Ghanshyam Tiwari, a former BJP leader

Jats have a significant presence here and they used to be Congress loyalists but this changed after Atal Bihari Vajpayee gave them reservation

The region has a large Brahmin and Adivasi population and was a Congress stronghold for long; its leader Mohanlal Sukhadia was the CM for 16 years

This region is dominated by the BJP as the Congress is a divided house here; Vasundhara’s constituency Jhalrapatan falls in Jhalawar district

The BJP does well in this region as it has a strong presence of Baniyas, Rajputs and Brahmins, traditional BJP voters

This region is mix of Jats, Gurjars and Muslims where the CPI-M has a strong presence; even smaller parties such as the National People’s Party has roots here

2018: Which way the Jat votes swing is likely to decide the outcome; it is said they can sense the mood in the State and vote accordingly

2018: It’s said which- ever party does well here bags the State; that’s why Vasundhara Raje began her Gaurav Yatra from Udaipur

2018: The maximum number of farmers’ suicides in the past few years has taken place here and the Congress is trying to exploit this unrest

2018: With the maximum seats falling in this area, it holds the key; the BJP is facing a resurgent Congress under Sachin Pilot, who belongs to Dausa

2018: The CPI-M has led the farmers’ agitation,  describing the farm loan write off in June as mere tokenism


North Chhattisgarh
About 40% of the population is tribals, who have traditionally voted for the Congress
2018: Last time, it was a direct contest between the Congress and the BJP; this time it will be a triangular fight with Ajit Jogi’s Chhattisgarh Janata Congress-BSP in the fray

Central Chhattisgarh
The BJP and the Congress have equal influence in the central plains
2018: With OBCs comprising 47% of the population, who wins their support is likely to decide the outcome here. There are 10 SC seats; the last time the BJP won 9 of them

South Chhattisgarh
Bastar falls in this region where a Maoist threat looms. The Congress did well in 2013 because of a sympathy wave after a Maoist attack killed its top leadership
2018: Except in 2013 when the Congress won more seats, the BJP has done well here

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