The overall mood in Morena is largely against the BJP, particularly against the party candidate, Narendra Singh Tomar.
The BSP and Congress vote banks have many common subsets. If the BSP is able to garner more votes by cutting into those going to the Congress, it could be advantage to BJP.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has kept the Morena Lok Sabha seat in Madhya Pradesh with itself for more than two decades (1996 - 2019) but its fading popularity in the area can be seen through the results of the last assembly elections.
Narendra Singh Tomar who has been minister in the Modi government is seeking a re-election after registering a win from Morena back in 2009.
The party may have calculated that the caste arithmetic and charisma of Tomar would work in favour of the BJP but the mood on-ground doesn’t seem to be reflecting this. In fact, the scenario is so much against Tomar that some locals claim that had the incumbent MP, Anoop Mishra, been given the ticket he would win more votes than Tomar, although it was his less than satisfactory record as MP that has cost him the ticket.
Most of the people this writer spoke to pointed out that Tomar, after winning Morena in 2009, didn’t really come back to work in the constituency and in the next election (2014), went to Gwalior and didn’t perform even there. People think that now he has come back to Morena because a win in Gwalior looks unlikely. Tomar’s caste advantage (he is a Rajput) is confined only to the eastern part of Morena district.
The only seat that Congress lost of the eight Assembly segments coming under Morena Lok Sabha seat was that of Vijaypur. The then five-term MLA Ram Niwas Rawat, who lost from Vijaypur in 2018 assembly elections, is now the Congress candidate from the Morena Lok Sabha constituency.
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), like in many of its seats in Uttar Pradesh, changed the candidate here too. Initially, Ramlakhan Kushwaha was declared a candidate while later it was changed to Kartar Singh Bhadana, a leader from Haryana. This change of candidate saw distress among party workers as Kushwaha was working since two months in the area. However, it is Mayawati who matters for BSP supporters here who have gone unaffected by the change of candidate.
Congress, They Say Offers a Ray of Hope
Most people this correspondent conversed with in Morena think that there has been no development for them under the BJP government. They want to bring about a change and they trust the Congress to increase employment and the welfare of farmers. The sentiment in the market is that it will surge after Congress comes to power. The hope is that the Congress will make better arrangements in the ‘system’.
Sumawali is an assembly constituency in itself but it doesn’t have good roads in its main market. While the voters here do have electricity in their homes, the absence of a distribution panel (DP) leaves them uncertain about the power supply. A group of men at the Sumawali mandi claim that they are obtaining electricity by connecting wires on their own. Another issue is that they cannot directly avail the facilities provided by the Janani Express Yojana — a scheme that provides 24/7 emergency transport services to rural patients — and need to call the vehicles from Morena.
Diman Sharma, who runs a flour mill in the area, says that corruption at the Tehsil level was more under BJP rule. The constant refrain is that earlier, the BJP MLA didn’t do anything while the Congress MLA is willing to hear their grievances even at 10 in the night. However, these issues come under the domain of state government but locals are losing trust over BJP.
Folks in Alapur village of Joura assembly constituency perceive BJP as a party for rich people. A woman who works at the Aanganwadi Kendra says that none of the BJP government schemes have reached them — neither roads nor houses or toilets have been constructed. Not only that, but she also claims that her house, which she built with her own money, has been included in the list of houses constructed under PMAY. Villagers even claim that whoever got jobs from their village got them under Congress rule.
Similar are the sentiments in Bamsoli village of Sabalgarh assembly constituency. A barber says that the Modi government has done nothing to solve their water woes. This same issue of water shortage was raised in Agara village of Vijaypur assembly constituency too. Voters here considered the Modi government incompetent as it couldn’t even start the construction of a dam in the area. The dam construction is pending in Morena, which is on the border of UP and MP and involves water treaty issues. However, locals blame the Modi government for this situation, and now have high hopes from the Congress.
Villagers of Bamsoli think that farmers will prosper under Congress rule. Farmers of Vijaypur are aligned with this idea too. One of the farmers in a group of eight claims that under the Congress, they would get free electricity, but now they have to pay Rs 6,000 annually for the motor and Rs 200 monthly for the electricity they get in their house. They say that power supply to their village was brought in by Rajiv Gandhi and the Modi government deserves no credit for it.
Rawat vs Tomar
While Ram Niwas Rawat of the Congress is an unknown face for the people of Ambah, Dimani and Sumawali, Tomar of the BJP is an unknown face for rest of the other assembly constituencies. Very few people feel that Tomar has done work in the area during his term (2009-2014) as Morena MP. Even BJP supporters are divided in their opinions. Some are ready to vote in the name of Modi, while others claim that they would have voted for BJP if the candidate was good.
A group of men in Joura market say that they have witnessed Tomar’s five-year tenure in which he did nothing and they are not willing to give him another chance. An additional factor is that many in this group consider Rawat as a local but Tomar as an outsider.
A labourer from Alapur finds Rawat to be a sociable person who “shakes hands” with everyone who meets him while he finds Tomar arrogant. An old man from Bamsoli says that he believes Rawat will solve their water issue because he also faces the same problem; Rawat’s own village, Sunwai, that is close to this village, is water deficit too.
Where Rawat Gains an Upper Hand
Considering Rawat’s loss from the Vijaypur assembly seat in the recent 2018 state elections, one may form the opinion that there is widespread discontent with the Congress in this area. But that would be erroneous. Even if some folks believe that Rawat’s work was not up to the mark they will still vote for him in the name of local favouritism.
Some others opine that in Rawat’s five terms as an MLA, he had done some good work initially but in the later years he slacked off due to complacency. His defeat last year from the Vijaypur assembly seat was an eye opener for him. Stating that they were willing to give him a chance just this once, a few people even defended his non-performance in the later years of his tenure saying that as a Congress MLA he didn’t get support from the state’s BJP government.
A youth from Dhakad area finds Rawat to be a regional leader who is easily accessible. Similarly, villagers of Agara told Swarajya about Rawat’s frequent visits to the area.
Where The Winds Are Favourable For Tomar
Praise for Tomar is largely confined to the three Assembly constituencies of Morena, Ambah and Dimani. This may be because Tomar’s home town, Porsa, is close to this area. Lokesh Goswami of Dimani says, “Tomar is a good man.” He informs us that getting regular power supply to the area, construction of the Kwari stop dam and a bridge were all done by Tomar.
As for the caste arithmetic, it is likely that the Rajputs of this area will vote for Tomar. It should be noted that the Rajput community is concentrated in the areas where Tomar has a positive image, so lack of Rajput votes from other areas is not going to be damaging for him.
His Ministerial charm also works in this region. People feel that him being Minister from the region will elevate their area’s name to the national level, “like Varanasi is now known as a constituency from where Modi comes”, claimed Ramkaran Singh Tomar.
The Role of BSP
Gurjar votes are definitely going to the BSP, for Bhadana is a Gurjar. Dalit votes seem to be divided, some by area and some by age group. In some areas like Joura, Jatavs have realised that voting for BSP has benefited BJP, so they have decided to collectively vote for Congress.
In Sheopur district, the scene gets reversed. One can see the BSP advertisement van, with a large LED screen playing Mayawati’s speeches, roaming around. Large crowds gather around this van wherever it stops and people willingly listen to Mayawati. Near one such van, those standing around it state that everybody in their area supports BSP as it is the party for the poor, OBCs and STs.
Om Prakash Kushwaha from Agara likes Mayawati because, “She can effectively apply schemes. She had controlled hooliganism in UP under her rule.” Gautam Kushwaha, while stating the same reasons, wants to see Mayawati as the Prime Minister. When interrupted by his fellowmen that this would not be possible, he replied, “In long term, it will happen. She will elevate herself.” A Jatav elder from Bamsoli also wants to see Mayawati as the PM.
BSP might be getting enough support from the middle-aged and old people of the SC community but the youth are more inclined towards the Congress. Satyendra Singh Gurjar is going to cast his first vote and it will be for the Congress. He believes that Congress can address youth issues and provide them employment. He wants to see Rahul Gandhi as PM.
This correspondent also came across rumours in Dimani that Tomar deliberately got Bhadana to contest the elections so that he would cut into Congress votes.
The Modi Factor
Although there was much distress at the local level with the previous government at the State level, there are many who trust the Modi government at the national level. The central government’s stand on terrorism and its international policies are widely known.
Modi has an image of a strong decision maker, as an honest and an efficient worker, while his opponent Rahul Gandhi is perceived as immature by many, especially for his quote, “Aloo dalo, sona nikalo.” Modi’s corruption-free image has won many hearts. Only a few have fallen for Rahul’s Rs 72,000 scheme. Rashtravaad and Hindutva are the two factors in favour of Modi.
While some areas saw discontent with PMAY not reaching them effectively, other areas like Bamsoli village has witnessed construction of toilets and around 400 houses under the Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana (PMAY). Many villagers praised Modi for the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan. Adivasis in Agara village are not much aware about politics but one thing they do know is that on the day of voting, they have to press the “Lotus” button. The community in this village has got five houses under the PMAY. Three educated men from this community namely, Dilip, Vijay Singh and Heera, say they support BJP and claim the same for their community.
An iron dealer in Vijaypur from the Agrawal community doesn’t have goodwill for any of the candidates, neither has he seen any development at the local level, and his business has gone down, but still, he says he is going to vote for Modi because he finds him to be the only one governing in the national interest. Hakim Singh Tomar, sarpanch of Bareru village in Dimani says that they are getting 24-hour power supply since two years. Under the BJP government, they got manure and seeds in a timely manner. And of course, there is a group of people who are not voting for BJP due to local issues but they want to see Modi as the PM.
All in All, the Final Say
While the Congress seems to dominate the stage in Morena, there is one aspect that can tilt the game in favour of the BJP, apart from the Modi factor. The BSP and Congress vote banks have may common subsets. If the BSP is able to garner more votes by cutting into those going to the Congress, the BJP may hope to gain an edge.
On the other hand, Jyotiraditya Scindia is known to have a deep impact on this area and his campaigning is an advantage for the Congress, whereas BJP doesn’t have any leader with the regional charm. But his not becoming the CM of the state has brought some distrust for the Congress. How much will this distrust matter in casting of votes is unknown yet.