Bye-elections in Madhya Pradesh: Shivraj plays the backwardness card

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Lalit Shastri

Barely a few months before the end of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s third consecutive term in power in Madhya Pradesh, State Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who takes the credit for steering his party to victory twice in a row in 2008 and 2013 on the development plank, is now seeking votes for the Kolaras Assembly bye election for which polling will be held on 24 February on the grounds of utter backwardness.

In the 2003 Assembly election, it was the saffron-clad Union Minister Uma Bharti, who had led the BJP to victory in the central Indian State of Madhya Pradesh.

Addressing the voters of Kolaras Assembly constituency in Madhya Pradesh where polling will be held on 24 February for a bye-election, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan was right in stating that election is conducted in a democracy for development and the welfare of the people. In the same breath, Chouhan also made an extremely irresponsible and baseless excuse for the continuing backwardness of the Kolaras area. When only a few months are left for the State Assembly election, the Chief Minister says that the BJP has ushered in development throughout the State (Vikas ki Ganga Bahai hai) but in the Kolaras Assembly constituency, since the MLA and the sitting MP from that area both belonged to the Congress party and they had taken no interest in development, he has been left greatly saddened especially because the agriculture fields are parched and dry, there is lack of proper irrigation, and also shortage of drinking water and dearth of basic facilities. This has forced him to resolve that development work will be undertaken in this constituency on a rapid pace to fulfill the expectations in terms of development. But for development, he has particularly emphasized on the role of the MLA and appealed for vote in favour of the BJP candidate Devendra Jain.

The Chief Minister has promised that he will deliver in next five months what has not been done in last five years. This election is for five months only and not five years, he said adding: “If we fail to perform better in these five months, you (the voters) are free to remove us.” he has said as he went on to underscore in his appeal: “Ensure our victory and pave the way for development and welfare of all sections of the people.”

The Chief Minister’s appeal brings to the fore a crucial constitutional issue. The BJP came to power for three consecutive terms in Madhya Pradesh in 2003, 2008 and 2013 and was given the mandate to ensure development and welfare of the people. Now in 2018, the Chief Minister is seeking votes saying Kolaras continues to remain backward, and everyone, including the farmers are suffering due to poor irrigation, water shortage and lack of basic facilities. For all this he has held the former Congress MLA and the sitting MP responsible. His argument not only defies logic but also puts a question mark on his own assertion that democratic elections are held for development and people’s welfare.

Everyone knows that an elected Government is supposed to carry forward its mandate for ensuring all-round development throughout  the State. The Government’s policies and programmes are backed by this mandate and the budgetary provision for this purpose gets ratified and validated by the Assembly. It is then the executive arm or the official machinery comes in picture and has to implement and execute the plans, programmes and policies of the government across the State. Hence it is the official machinery down the line, supervised and monitored at the highest level by none other than the Chief Minister himself and the bureaucracy, led by the chief secretary at the top, and the district collector at the cutting edge level, that should be held accountable for failure when it comes to ensuring development. It does not require space science to tell where the buck should stop. But what is to the contrary is the State Chief Minister conveying the message that Kolaras has been devoid of the fruits of development since the MP and MLA in that area, both were from the opposition party. The Chief Minister’s statement is tantamount to an assertion that development under his regime will be arrested in constituencies represented by opposition MPs and MLAs. This is an unthinkable augury of where our democracy is heading.

For filling up clear vacancies in the State Legislative Assembly of Madhya Pradesh from 27-Kolaras and 34-Mungaoli Assembly Constituencies, bye-elections are being held. Polling will be held tomorrow, 24 February, and counting of votes is on 28 February. Both these constituencies fall in the Gwalior belt.



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