MP by-polls: Will Scindia secure a handsome victory?

Voting for by-polls in 28 assembly seats in Madhya Pradesh has begun today. In December 2018, when Kamalnath led Congress government came to power after three successive election victories for the BJP, it was widely believed that the voters wanted a change. However, this change in Madhya Pradesh was short-lived as senior Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia crossed over to the BJP along with as many as twenty-five MLAs in March this year. This led to a fall of the Kamal Nath government. Currently, in the 231 seat Madhya Pradesh assembly, the ruling BJP coalition has 111 seats including four independents. To meet the minimum majority mark, the BJP just needs five more seats whereas Congress needs to win all the by-poll seats. It will still need to win twenty-five seats even with the support of SP and BSP MLAs. Furthermore, sixteen of these constituencies are located in the Gwalior-Chambal region which is a Scindia strong-hold. Thus, even at outset, Congress has slim chances of staging a comeback.
A total of 355 candidates, including 12 ministers, are in the fray for bypolls to 28 seats in the state. Around 33,000 security personnel have been deployed in 19 districts where these constituencies fall and all preparations have been made to hold free and fair polls. As many as 9,361 booths have been set up for people to exercise their franchise and out of these, 3,038 are placed under the 'critical' category.
Historically, the Congress has never crossed the figure of 18 seats (of total 34) in the region since Independence. And for the first time in 2018, owing to multiple reasons, Congress and Congress tally went up to 26. One seat went to BSP and seven to BJP. It was a one-way street for Congress. That is a huge way that resulted in the formation of the Congress government.
The party’s victory can largely be attributed to trusting reposed in the Congress by people of Gwalior-Chambal. But Congress could still play spoiler for new BJP entrant Scindia. For the latter, the by-polls represent a major test, particularly since 16 of the 28 seats going to polls are in his Gwalior-Chambal region. That senior Congress neta Digvijaya Singh too has considerable influence in this part of the state means the contest harks back to the old Scindia-Singh rivalry. And if Scindia fails to secure a handsome victory here, it will certainly limit his stature and bargaining power within BJP.

- Prabhakar Purandare

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