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As Madhya Pradesh awaits election results, Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s biggest worries may be corruption, unemployment

Twenty five-year-old Durgesh Varma, who completed his B.Tech a year ago, was going to Bhopal from Chhindwara by train after casting his vote on 28 November. He had to appear in an examination at Bhopal for a job at the Airports Authority of India. Durgesh is a BJP worker, and his father is the local sarpanch and also a BJP worker. Like many others, an enthusiastic Varma also attended the BJP rally on 18 November addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Varma has been an ardent admirer of the prime minister and in any case, a prime minister addressing a rally in the town was a major occasion. That was why he went to attend the rally with great enthusiasm. He heard the complete address of the prime minister that day. In his address, Modi criticised the MP of Chhindwara, Kamal Nath. But after the prime minister’s address was over, Varma was unhappy because he didn’t elaborate on the future plans of his government. The cause of Varma’s unhappiness was the unemployment in the state. He said, “The Madhya Pradesh government, under the leadership of the chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, has worked on the ground. The state has made progress in the terms of roads, electricity and water facilities. The poor have been provided cheap food grains, and the government worked for farmers too. But the youth here require employment. After all, if the youth don’t get employment, what will they do?

Durgesh wasn’t alone in raising such questions. Another youth, Ajay Tiwari, who was traveling from Bhopal to Pipariya by train, had the same question. During the 2014 general elections and afterwards, a large section of the youth seemed to hold a positive view of Prime Minister Modi and the BJP. Varma and Tiwari are not exceptions to this trend. Both are admirers of Modi and said that they would support the BJP in the next general elections. However, this time, both of them decided to vote for the Congress.

In Madhya Pradesh, there has been a BJP government for the past 15 years. In the beginning, Uma Bharti and Babulal Gaur ruled the state. After the first two years, Shivraj Singh Chauhan took over the reins and remains at the post. He is the first chief minister of the state who has held the post for so long at a stretch. He is also the second BJP chief minister after Raman Singh who has ruled any state for so long.

The very fact that Chouhan has been the chief minister for so long is an indication of his competence and efficiency.

The BJP has had a strong presence in the state earlier as well. This is because of the strong presence of the RSS. It is important to note that before the BJP came into the existence, the Jana Sangh used to get a good share of the votes. The question then arises — why has the BJP been getting weaker in the state for the last few years, despite having had a firm grip of the people’s pulse in the past? Most importantly, why are the youth — considered the party’s strength till now — drifting away this time?

To seek the answers to these questions, we must look back in time. Since 2003, the BJP government has paid significant attention to ensuring basic necessities such as electricity, building roads and water. Some people remarked that the duration of power supply during the Congress’ rule per day was equivalent to the power cuts during the BJP’s rule. The condition of roads has also improved. During Chouhan’s tenure, there has been improvement in the work of constructing canals. However, the government was unable to achieve much when it came to job creation. Thereafter, party workers at the lower rung of the BJP became corrupt. Ordinary people came to believe that the senior leaders of the party were not corrupt, but local ones engaged in graft. Due to this, people conveyed their dissatisfaction with many MLAs, despite supporting the chief minister. Thus, the BJP denied tickets to 50 MLAs.

Besides, the young generation is not willing to stick with any one party. In order to retain their support, parties have to adopt new and out-of-the-box strategies. While a lot of developmental work took place during Chouhan’s tenure, there were no major attractive projects which were carried out. Further, the rise in unemployment has driven many young people to seek change.

The election results on 11 December will tell whether or not Chouhan has faced anger from young voters.

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