BJP does some math for plan to buck anti-incumbency in Madhya Pradesh

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is considering not fielding about one third of its 165 sitting legislators in this year’s assembly elections, in an attempt to buck an anti-incumbency sentiment and return to power for the fourth time in Madhya Pradesh. These MLAs are seen to have performed poorly, two party leaders said.

The party’s Central Election Committee, which has Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah among its members, would take a final decision in this regard based on inputs from the state unit.

BJP leaders familiar with the ticket selection process said the party’s surveys over the last six months suggest that there is “strong” anti-incumbency against 35 to 40% of the lawmakers. “They include at least six ministers in (chief minister Shivraj Singh) Chouhan’s cabinet,” a party leader said.

The party has conducted surveys of both voters and party workers to get a feedback on what needs to be done to win back their confidence. Surveys were conducted after BJP lost four back to back assembly by-polls. They indicated that the party workers were unhappy with Chouhan government’s functioning.

A senior party leader said as the resentment among workers was high, the party decided to get their feedback on the probable candidates from all the 230 assembly seats on October 16 and 17.

“The party workers gave a frank opinion as to who should be the party candidate from their respective assembly constituencies in the interest of the party, irrespective of their affiliation with the sitting MLAs,” a state BJP office-bearer, who was part of the exercise, said.

In addition to the feedback, the party has also got reports that workers have shown resentment against legislators in several constituencies. On Sunday, supporters of a BJP worker raised slogans against the party legislator from Bairasia (Bhopal), Vishnu Khatri.

Earlier, BJP workers protested against former CM Babulal Gaur’s candidature from Govindpura (Bhopal), which he has represented for almost four decades, citing his old age.

Another BJP leader, requesting anonymity, said the party has made it clear by denying tickets to 14 MLAs in Chhattisgarh that non-performing legislators will not be fielded again. The party announced candidates for 77 of 90 seats in Chhattisgarh Friday.

A third BJP leader said the party may adopt a “middle-path” in case of some legislators and ministers by either shifting them to new seats or giving tickets to their confidantes.“This will be done to ensure that there is no sabotage,” the third leader said.

The BJP has been in power in Madhya Pradesh since 2003. Chouhan became the chief minister in 2005. The BJP got a thumping majority in the 230-member state assembly in 2013. The state will go to polls on Nov 28.

BJP spokesman Rajneesh Agrawal said the candidates’ list will be announced at the right time. “The party leadership will take its decision on candidates.”

Congress spokesman Bhupendra Gupta said the BJP surveys have made it clear that the party is going to lose the election. “Whether the party drops the MLAs or retains them, it is not going to change the election results.”

Former Dr HS Gour University (Sagar) political science department head GP Nema said the BJP’s parent body, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, will play its role. “…those who have not performed in the past 5 years in accordance with the party’s ideology or have been self-centred in their approach will not get tickets as it appears as of now.”