Madhya Pradesh: The ruling BJP looks on course to retain power in Madhya Pradesh, going by the trends so far from counting votes for the state assembly elections. As per the latest figures available with the Election Commission, the BJP was leading in 166 of the 230 seats in Madhya Pradesh, while the Congress was ahead in 63 seats.
For the Congress and former chief minister Kamal Nath, this election was a chance at redemption after the events of March 2020, when the Congress government, which was only in power from December 17, 2018, to March 23, 2020, fell after Jyotiraditya Scindia's revolt, paving the way for the BJP, which has dominated the state since 2003.
The exit polls had predicted a tight race and some even gave Congress the advantage of dethroning the BJP from a state that has been its citadel for over two decades.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan gave credit for the massive victory to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's poll campaign and said people have immense faith in him. Chouhan also said they have properly implemented welfare schemes of the "double engine" government (of BJP at the Centre and in the state).
"Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji is in the hearts of the people of Madhya Pradesh. The state is also in the heart of Modi ji. There is immense faith towards him. He held public meetings here and appealed to the people which has touched the people's hearts. Such trends are coming as a result of this," Chouhan said.
He also said the election campaign got the right direction due to the infallible strategy of Union Home Minister Amit Shah, the guidance of BJP chief JP Nadda and other leaders and the hard work of the party workers.
"The MP government implemented schemes like the Ladli Lakshmi and Ladli Behna and works have been done for the welfare of farmers, poor people and youth, which also touched the people's hearts," the CM said. "I had said the BJP will get a comfortable majority and we are getting it," Chouhan said.
A poll official said postal ballots were counted between 8 am and 8.30 am, after which the counting of votes through EVMs began in the presence of officials and political parties' authorized agents.
Polling in the single-phase elections on November 17 saw an impressive turnout of 77.82 per cent, surpassing the 2018 voting percentage of 75.63 per cent, state Chief Electoral Officer Anupam Rajan said. In last month's elections, 77.15 per cent of polling was recorded through electronic voting machines (EVMs) and the remaining through postal ballots, he said. The ruling BJP, in power in the state for most of the last two decades, is facing a challenge from the Congress.
The state electorate voted for 2,533 candidates in 230 constituencies. There were 5.59 lakh eligible voters. The counting of votes for all assembly seats began at 8 am at 52 district headquarters amid tight security. Altogether 692 tables have been placed for the counting of postal ballots in all districts, while 4,369 tables have been set up to place the EVMs, Rajan said. Rajan said postal ballots will be counted between 8 am and 8.30 am, after which the counting of votes through EVMs will begin in the presence of officials and political parties' authorised agents.
Soon after the postal ballots are counted, its result will be declared candidate-wise by the officials concerned and the exercise will be followed after the completion of each round of counting, he said. At 26, Jhabua seat will see the highest number of counting rounds, while the lowest number of 12 rounds will be held in Sevda constituency in Datia district, he said. The government has declared the day of counting a dry' day, during which all wine and liquor shops shall remain closed. A three-tier security arrangement is in place and only people holding valid passes will be allowed to enter the counting centres, he said. Altogether 51,259 voters above 80 years of age and 12,093 physically challenged voters polled from home this time, while 3.04 lakh personnel engaged in polling work exercised their franchise through postal ballots.
Political bigwigs in the fray were Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and his predecessor Kamal Nath, in a largely bipolar battle between the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress. Of the 230 seats, 47 are reserved for Scheduled Tribes and 35 for Scheduled Castes. Besides CM Chouhan (from Budhni seat) and state Congress president Nath (Chhindwara), Sunday's counting of votes will also decide the fate of three BJP Union ministers Narendra Singh Tomar, Prahlad Patel and Faggan Singh Kulaste, who also contested. BJP general secretary Kailash Vijaywargiya and three Lok Sabha MPs of the BJP, Rakesh Singh, Ganesh Singh and Riti Pathak, were also in the fray.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Samajwadi Party (SP) also fielded their candidates. The number of votes garnered by these candidates will also be a crucial factor in deciding the winner from a constituency. The electioneering saw Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP president J P Nadda, Union Minister Rajnath Singh and CM Chouhan addressing rallies to drum up support for the saffron party's nominees. Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, party leaders Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Digvijaya Singh, and Nath were among the key leaders of the opposition party who held campaign rallies for their nominees.
(With PTI inputs)