Bhopal, Nov 17: A turnout of at least 72 per cent was officially recorded during largely-peaceful voting on Friday in the heartland state of Madhya Pradesh where single-phase exercise of franchise had commenced at 7 am amid tight security arrangements across all 230 Assembly constituencies vis-à-vis formation of the state’s 16th Vidhan Sabha.
The actual percentage will become clear once final figures are received as queues were observed on numerous polling centres’ premises even subsequent to expiration of the 6 pm deadline.
With the exception of a few stray incidents, polling was smooth. The process concluded at 3 pm at certain centres in Leftwing extremism-affected Balaghat, Dindori and Mandla districts.
The pages of the state’s electoral history reveal that 75.63 percent of the electorate participated in 2018 and 72.69 percent in 2013.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and his family voted at their native village Jait in Sehore district. Union Civil Aviation and Steel Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia did likewise in Gwalior; Home Minister Narottam Mishra cast his vote in Datia district, erstwhile CM Kamal Nath in Chhindwara and BJP General Secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya in Indore.
An electorate exceeding 5.60 crore – including more than 2.71 crore women and 1,292 of the third gender – were eligible to participate in the democratic exercise at 64,626 polling centres – including 17,032 critical ones – to decide the fortunes of 2,533 nominees including 252 females and one member of the third gender.
A total of 1,316 vulnerable areas were identified. Monitoring through webcasting and closed-circuit television was arranged at more than 42,000 centres.
The ruling BJP and the principal-opposition Congress fielded their representatives for all seats whereas other figures included Bahujan Samaj Party 181; Samajwadi Party 71 and 1,166 independents.
Among the prominent contestants are Chief Minister Chouhan (Budhni), Congress state head Kamal Nath (Chhindwara), Union Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister Narendra Singh Tomar (Dimani), Union Minister of State for Jal Shakti and Food-Processing Industries Prahalad Singh Patel (Narsinghpur), Union MoS for Steel and Rural Development Faggansingh Kulaste (Niwas) and Mr Vijayvargiya (Indore-1).
Counting is slated for December 3.
The BJP’s determined bid to stretch its almost uninterrupted 20-year rule and the Congress’ all-out pitch to wrest control of the geographically-large state sums up battleground Madhya Pradesh, which has been under saffron rule since 2003 barring a Congress interregnum.
Going by the psephologists, it could be a close call.
In the 2018 election, the Congress emerged as the single-largest entity with 114 seats and constituted a coalition government that proved to be short-lived owing to the exit in March 2020 of MLAs loyal to the then Congress leader Scindia, who revolted and the BJP formed a dispensation again.
Later that year, most of the Scindia supporters won on BJP tickets in by-polls. Needless to say, winning the election is a prestige issue for the saffron camp even as the Congress is ranging for revenge.
The outcome shall also be a reflection of the voters’ mood vis-à-vis the all-important general election scheduled in 2024. In the 2019 Lok Sabha poll, the BJP had a clean sweep barring Congress stalwart Kamal Nath’s traditional bastion Chhindwara, from where his son Nakul Nath emerged victorious.
It remains to be seen how far the personal charisma and populist schemes of Mr Shivraj Singh Chouhan – the longest-serving BJP Chief Minister ever – influence the electorate’s psyche or an anti-incumbency factor comes into play. (UNI)