Will Mumbai attacks impact Madhya Pradesh poll results?

December 6th, 2008 - 11:07 am ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata PartyBhopal, Dec 6 (IANS) Will the Mumbai terror attacks, which continued for the second day as Madhya Pradesh voted for a new state assembly Nov 27, impact the poll outcome? That’s the big question sweeping political circles in the state as the results are set to be announced Monday.Voting had begun on a dull note as the people seemed shell shocked by the Mumbai blasts but this picked up as the day advanced and the state eventually reported a 69.31 percent turnout. Though there was no specific wave against the state’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the high turnout has surprised everyone.

There are different theories doing the rounds. One view is that a higher turnout always goes against the ruling party as has happened in the last assembly polls. The other is that the voters came out in large numbers to vent their anger following the terror attacks.

“This is evident from the fact that the voters came out during the last leg of polling,” a state government official said.

Poll analyst D.S. Tiwari said that higher poll percentage is an “indication of change”. He also admitted that there was no specific wave against the ruling party and the BJP was successful in marketing Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan as a brand during the campaign.

Some say the Mumbai attacks will help the BJP, while others hold the view that they would have affected the Congress’ chances in the polls only if they had happened at least a day or two earlier.

“It takes time for things to percolate down to the village level and the interiors. And since polling in Madhya Prtadesh started within 12 hours of the attack in Mumbai, it would have hardly made any impact”, said a BJP leader pleading anonymity as his calculations go against the party’s hopes to retain power.

But Tiwari differed, saying the Mumbai strikes must have certainly impacted the polling in the state as the people were worried about their security.

The Congress didn’t think the attacks would impact its chances.

“Terrorism is prevalent the world over. The centre is taking stern steps for tackling it and the Mumbai disturbances will not impact the electoral outcome,” state Congress spokesman Manak Agarwal told IANS.

“The BJP here swept to power in 2003 on the promise of providing better bijli, sadak and pani (electricity, roads and water), but it has failed to do so. Thus, the Congress is certainly going to be the gainer on this account also,” Agarwal argued.

As for the BJP, it finds solace in the fact that it was almost 11 percent ahead of the Congress in 2003 and thus it would stay on top even if it loses a substantial chunk of votes polled this time. It is also banking on the image of Chouhan, who is seen as a relatively clean politician, in contrast to some of his ministers.

Besides the BJP and the Congress, the two traditional rivals, in the fray this time are three major players - Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party, (BSP), former BJP firebrand Uma Bharti’s Bharatiya Jan Shakti (BJS) Party and Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party - putting up a spirited fight, much to the chagrin of the main opponents.

All these parties will, in varying degrees, eat into the votes of the BJP and the Congress. Mayawati had put up candidates in all the 230 constituencies, Uma Bharati in 215 and Yadav in 186 - not to speak of the unprecedented 1,374 independent candidates, many of whom are BJP and Congress rebels.

The BJP and the Congress admit they are worried about these players and believe that Uma Bharati, who stewarded the 2003 BJP victory, would now be a spoiler for the party, while Mayawati and Yadav would have their nuisance value for the Congress.

Whosoever forms the government, the results are set to decide the mood of the voter for the upcoming general election. Thus, both the BJP and the Congress have high stakes.

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