Will Congress Make it in Madhya Pradesh?

One of the most senior members in the Indian Political family is striving hard to vanquish its rivals in the upcoming Lok Sabha election to which Madhya Pradesh’s polls are deemed to be a precursor.

This time the queries irking political experts’ mind is that whether BSP’s and Congress severed ties ruin Congress’s Prospects in Madhya Pradesh especially in Chambal belt and the Satna-Rewa region, bastion of BSP.

The two regions in the north and north-east of the State yielded two seats each to the Congress in the 2013 election.

With the BSP coming second in 12 of the 230 constituencies in that election, some observers contended that an alliance would have helped consolidate the crucial Dalit vote in these pockets and taken a Congress-led combine past the BJP in quite a few seats.

However, Congress leaders said the BSP’s demand for 50 seats was considered unreasonable with the party seen to be punching far above its weight.

A tour through the State’s Chambal division reveals a complex picture.

In 2013, the BSP won Dimani and Ambah and was runner-up in four seats. Given this pattern, an alliance between the Congress and the BSP ought to have been invincible in these seats.

But local Scheduled Caste residents said an alliance may not necessarily have helped across seats.

Political analyst and author Sajjan Kumar, who travelled through the State earlier this year, appeared to affirm the wizened village elder’s reasoning.

Dr. Kumar also cautioned against using past patterns to extrapolate outcomes for the present election.

“Past data do not capture change. In 2013, the Congress was discredited and the BJP was a rising force, also entrenched in M.P. This time, there is rural anti-incumbency, which may mean that more Dalits choose the Congress even in zones where the BSP has been a force,” he said.

Dalit voters in the Chambal region said the vote would be one for change, and the BSP candidate would be preferred only on the basis of winnability. Else, the Scheduled Castes were likely to vote for the Congress to defeat the BJP.

The complaints against the State’s BJP government range from the material to the cultural.

Besides the general farm anger, there is a very specific Dalit complaint.

“The number of stray cattle has gone up because of Gau Rakshaks,” said Shripad Jatav of Purana Joura. “They destroy the crops at night. And since we live in a theft-prone area, we don’t know whether to guard our homes or our fields at night.”

Dalits were also unhappy with the police’s treatment of Scheduled Caste youth during the protests against “dilution” of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in the wake of the Supreme Court’s order.

For all its exertions, the Centre’s legislative amendment to the Act does not seem to have convinced Dalits of the BJP’s credentials.