Battle is between corruption in state Vs scams at center – Yashwardhan Joshi

‘MPeee Gajab Haiiii,

Sabseee Ajab Haiiii….’

download (1)And thus goes the lyrical melody in a creative advertisement on television, enticing visitors to Madhya Pradesh, the heart of Incredible India. If the heart now beats faster than ever before, all credit goes to its Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan to make the State ‘gajab (incredible)’.

Till 2003, before the BJP government took over, Madhya Pradesh was one of the ‘BIMARU’ (sick) States of India. It witnessed a negative growth of -7 per cent in 2000-01 and -4 per cent in 2002-03. Since Chouhan took over the reins in 2005, following short tenures of two BJP chief ministers, the State’s economy has been growing consistently, surpassing the all India average growth rate in the past five years.

From the lowest rung to occupying the third place and now claiming the number one position by clocking 10 per cent growth in 2012-13, Madhya Pradesh has come a long way under Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

After Gujarat, it is now the second most preferred State for the corporate world to set up industries. And if all this upbeat mood is reflected in that State tourism’s peppy advertisement, which showcases MP’s varied culture, heritage and beauty, it is justifiably so.

For, it was Shivraj who made the tourist sites in far-flung areas accessible to visitors by connecting them with a network of roads. And the State got the President’s award this year for improving its tourism and infrastructure growth. But behind all this optimism and cherry mood lurks a long dark shadow. As the heart of India beats faster, somewhere in the deep recess of Shivraj a beat skips a beating as the Assembly polls draw nearer. What does the chief minister, with his two terms of excellent work to boast of, has to fear of?

It is not Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, whose announcement as BJP’s PM candidate before the polls he had earlier opposed for fear that Muslims and Christians as well as a section of Hindu voters opposed to Modi’s politics would keep away from the BJP and rush to the Congress fold. For, Modi, at the ‘karyakarta mahakumbh (grand convention)’ in MP, had praised Shivraj’s development work. It is a word that starts with a ‘c’ and ends with an ‘n’ and is called corruption, which has seen the downfall of many a government in the States and at the Centre in the past. It is this dark looming shadow of corruption that is, perhaps, giving sleepless nights to Shivraj Singh.

It is the dairies seized by the IT department from mining barons which contain details of alleged bribes to two of his ministers that are, possibly, making the CM jittery. It is the complaints with the lokayukta against 12 of his ministers that are, in all likelihood, making the CM nervous ahead of the elections later this year.  That is why, as a counter, he is on the offensive in his rallies, attacking the Opposition Congress for running a ‘’scam-tainted’’ government at the Centre. Though he also talks about his achievements on the development front, the focus is invariably on alleged corruption under UPA 11. ‘’From A to Z, the Congress is fully immersed in corruption,’’ he says and accuses the UPA government of misusing the CBI against its political opponents.

In attacking the Congress, he also sees to it that the memory of the previous 10 year-rule of the Congress in the State is not lost when he compares the BJP’s achievements with Digvijaya Singh’s– 95,000 km of roads under BJP rule against 50,000 km under Congress’, and 10,000 MW of power generation in 2003-2013 against 2,500 MW in 1993-2003. The Congress, on its part, finds corruption in MP as a godsend to counter the development work of Shivraj.

In the election rallies so far, its leaders, including Jyotiraditya Scindia, have accused the Chouhan government of rampant corruption and gross misuse of funds allocated for Central schemes. If Chouhan has a friendly next-door neighbour image and charisma and hard work to brag of, then the Congress has chosen a youthful leader in Scindia to lead from the front by making him in charge of the party’s poll campaign committee.

And if the BJP has a strong support base at the ground level in Madhya Pradesh, which can be converted into votes, then it also has to fight the anti-incumbency.

The Congress is already highlighting corruption and scandals that mar the Shivraj Singh government. ‘’They indulge in corruption and make money,’’ says Scindia. And as the slugfest continues between the BJP and the Congress, more attacks and counter-attacks will be made at the respective rallies and road shows, attended by their top leaders, in days to come.

For the BJP, it will be 2003 vs 2013 and corruption at the Centre; for the Congress, it will be exposing ‘’corruption’’ under Shivraj Singh Chouhan. Corruption will then be the main issue in these elections. With Madhya Pradesh being one of the biggest States in India, the election outcome will be eagerly awaited by the two parties for gauging the peoples’ mood ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

It will be especially important for the BJP, to test the popularity of Modi in leading the party to the Delhi throne next year.

Though various pre-poll surveys conducted so far have put the BJP far head of the Congress, giving it 130 seats in the House of 230, the BJP leaders appear far more optimistic of vastly improving their last time’s tally of 143.

But it is not the surveys or the parties and their leaders that decide the outcome; it is the voters who decide through their ballots. Will it then be a third term for Shivraj Singh Chouhan or the return of the Congress after being out in the wilderness for ten long years?

We can all make a guess, but the question can best be answered in December by the voters of Madhya Pradesh, who for the first time in these elections will have the ‘none of the above’ option in EVMs, a separate button for the electorate not wishing to vote for any of the candidates in the fray. And as votes are counted along with the ‘none of the above’ option, a refrain may float in the air: ’MPeee votersss gajab haiii….’