Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Chhattisgarh political analysis- March 2008

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Chhattisgarh is confident of retaining power but the party high command doesn’t seem to share the same enthusiasm.

The appointment of senior BJP leader and master strategist Ravishankar Prasad as the in-charge of election affairs in the poll-bound Chhattisgarh is reported to be an overt signal that the party high command is hesitating to buy the assurance of the state leaders that all roads are leading to the BJP retaining the power in the state.

Chhattisgarh is scheduled to go to the state polls in November-December. The biggest challenge for the saffron brigade is to win the confidence of the voters to continue with the second spell in power in the tribal-dominated state. The state BJP leadership is expressing confidence of winning the electoral battle in the state for two reasons.

First, the development works that it has initiated in the state alongwith the government sponsored scheme of selling a kilogram of rice for just Rs 3 to over 3.4 million families living below poverty line has resulted in a high-increase in the vote bank.

Secondly, the BJP is hoping that the fractured opposition in the state due to the infighting in Congress following severe differences in its ranks and files will help BJP in consolidating in areas which traditionally have been Congress bastion.

Prasad’s taking over the command to propel and prepare the party cadre to the ensuing elections is seen as a major political development. The state already has a national general-secretary, Dharmendra Pradhan, as an in-charge of party affairs in the state. By bestowing onus to senior leader like Prasad, the BJP high command has send a clear signal that the election in Chhattisgarh is not a cake walk as the local leaders have been projecting.

The leaders in Chhattisgarh have reasons to play the development down. “The party high command has appointment in-charge in all the states that will go to the polls,” explained a senior BJP leader. But the leader failed to address why heavy-weight leader like Prasad has been given the responsibility of one state when Venkaiah Naidu is doing the same job for two states—Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, which comparatively are bigger states than Chattisgarh.

According to party insiders, the party is of the opinion that elections in Chhattisgarh and Karnataka has to be handled with more importance. That could be the reason why Prasad has been given the responsibility of Chhattisgarh state so that he could fully concentrate in one state while assigning Arun Jaitley to Karnataka.

Prasad landed in the state on his 3 day maiden visit on March 27. During his stay, he tried talking to different groups and get the pulse of the general feeling in the party circle. In the absence of Chief Minister Dr Raman Singh, he chaired the meeting of core group and interacted with the senior members. His one-to-one meeting with ministers and legislators provided him more information was seen as an effort to get the exact picture of the government and party organization.

Although the Bihar political stalwart gave clean chit to the Chief Minister and reiterated his party President Rajnath Singh’s stand that the state will go to the polls under Dr Raman Singh’s leadership, Prasad knows that much is needed to done if the party has to emerge victorious.

Prasad will also have to work hard to reduce the rift that has been created between the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) cadre and the government. RSS alleges that its suggestion are not being heeded by the state government.

Amidst resentment against the government and organization at the ground level, ticket distribution will be another daunting task for the party’s election in-charge for the state. Prasad has already hinted that getting a ticket to contest the polls on BJP ticket will not be as easy as he will scan each leader including the sitting legislators before the list is finalized.

Prasad has already indicated his stand on the matter to all the leaders waiting in line to enter the Chhattisgarh Vidhan Sabha. A former Congress leader, who crossed over to the BJP and enjoys a good support among the Oriya voters, came with a big crowd to meet Prasad at the state guesthouse. As his supporters raised slogan, Prasad responded: “Shouting slogans will not ensure party ticket. One has to do good work”.

Madhya Pradesh political analysis-March 2008

Bharatiya Janata Party emerged victorious on all the three Rajya Sabha seats from Madhya Pradesh in a biennial RS polls held here. All the three contestants of the BJP, Raghunandan Sharma, Prabhat Jha and Maya Singh emerged victorious by securing 58 votes each. Independent candidate Vivek Tankha, who had the support of Congress and the Samajwadi legislature, was defeated as he could muster only 51 votes.

Earlier the political atmosphere in Madhya Pradesh witnessed hectic activity in view of the impending Rajya Sabha elections. After a lot of deliberations and meeting the BJP was finally able to arrive at a consensus on the name of BJP Vice President and its Mahila Morcha state in charge Maya Singh, senior leader Raghunandan Singh a former renegade who was wooed back into the BJP from the BJS and Secretary Prabhat Jha who was the editor of party mouthpiece ‘Kamal Sandesh’.

Samajwadi Party MLA from Lanjhi constituency Kishore Samrite caused a flutter when he accused the Congress leaders including PCC chief Suresh Pachori of offering him bribe so as to vote in favour of independent candidate Vivek Tankha. Samrite was later suspended from the party.

Tankha who was earlier Advocate general when the Congress was in power under Digvijay Singh, claimed to have the support of the other smaller parties like the SP and the GGP. It’s no secret that the whole election management of Tankha was being managed and supervised by Union Minister of Commerce Kamal Nath.

The state is going to witness another bypoll which is scheduled to be held on the 12th of April. The Betul bypoll was necessitated due to the death of BJP MP Vijay Kumar Khandelwal. Congress is being represented by Sukhdev Panse who also represents Masod in the Assembly. BJP has given ticket to Hemant Khandelwal who is the son of Vijay Khandelwal. Dr.Sunilam, president of the state unit of the Samajwadi Party and MLA from one of the assembly segments-Multai, has also filed his papers for the Betul seat.

Betul will be the last election before the assembly polls and all the parties have mounted their efforts to emerge victorious and go into poll mode with a positive outlook. BJP has pitched in eight ministers who have been made in-charge of separate assembly segments of the Betul Lok Sabha constituency. Recently Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan visited Betul twice and announced attractive sops for them including construction work of more than Rs 100 crore.

Congress goes into the poll with two wins under its belt including victories in Khargone Lok Sabha and Sanver assembly bypolls.

Many of the high profile candidates who were trying for a ticket form Betul including former MP Ghufran-e-Azam, Aslam Sher Khan, NSUI president Hemant Vagdare and Nakul Nath, son Kamalnath were left disappointed. Though sources close to Kamalnath have suggested that he decided to pull out the race as he wanted to play safe and plans to launch his son in the next assembly elections which are just eight months away from Chindwaara which has been his bastion for more than 20 years

Political pundits have already termed the Boston University graduate Nakul Nath, who recently joined the party as a potential challenge to Jyotiraditya Scindia and Arjun Singh’s son Ajay Singh. Ajay Singh was recently appointed Election campaign in-charge to the run-up to the state election.

The newly appointed state PCC chief Suresh Pachori got a glimpse of the tough times that is expected from the party cadre when PCC general secretary and spokesperson Manak Agrawal vacated his office situated in the state congress building in a huff. This was after Manak found his name missing in the list of the newly declared executive committee comprising 12 vice presidents, 17 general secretaries, 1 treasurer, 26 secretaries, and 50 working committee members.

After Manak it was the turn of Gufran-e-Azam, who resigned from PCC state executive as a member. The issue has threatened to turn into a major embarrassment for Pachori after Madhya Pradesh Congress legislator and Vice president of State Congress Committee Arif Aqeel lambasted Gufran-e-Azam’s resignation.

Gufran-e-azam in recent years has lost more political weight than he has gained. Azam at the time of Digvijay singh had a strong political clout and was considered close to Sonia Gandhi but with the emergence of other leaders belonging to the minority section in the capital like Areef Aqeel and his inability to make an impact on the electorate has led to his stature has being reduced.

It has also been reported from some quarters that the BJP is making efforts to get firebrand leader Uma Bharati back into the party. The move, notwithstanding opposition from certain sections within the party, has gained ground with the assessment that the firebrand leader, who is currently running her own outfit, the Bhartiya Jana Shakti (BJS), might cut BJP’s votes in the October/November polls if she does not get back into the party-fold.

In the first step towards by any party in furtherance to the state assembly election, BSP became the first party in the state to declare it candidates for assembly elections that are eight months away. The BSP has decided to apply the same successful formula of social engineering that was instrumental in its victory in Uttar Pradesh. Mayawati led BSP announced the party candidates for 62 seats and not surprisingly the maximum number of seats have been allotted to Brahmins followed by the Rajputs and the OBCs.


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