By Omar Rashid

Bhopal: ‘If the Congress comes to power in Madhya Pradesh, there will be a rise in goondaism and local Muslims will start bullying the poor people.’

This was at the core of what Aryan Sahu, a first-time voter from Sagar district, said when asked why he was not willing to give the Congress a chance in the assembly election, voting for which is on Friday (November 17).

He talked about a case in his constituency, Khurai, where some Muslim families accused of harassing their neighbours were allegedly forced to relocate by a local leader. Sahu accused the Congress of providing patronage to goondaism by the minority community.

Though he could not provide any evidence for his suspicion of the community or how the Congress provided patronage to suspected criminals despite being out of power for the last two decades, he was unwavering in his conviction that the BJP best represented the interests of the Hindus, while the Congress suppressed their true sentiments.

“The BJP has ended all goondaism. There used to be a lot of atrocities. If the Congress comes back, there will be goondagardi again,” said Sahu, who runs a small kiosk. Atrocities by whom, I asked. “The people from the Muslim community. They used to oppress the poor,” he responded.

Madhya Bharat’s commitment to Hindutva 

The BJP’s core ideology of Hindutva has deep roots in MP, right from the days of the Jan Sangh. Most of the BJP’s rule since 2003 has been uninterrupted, barring a 15-month stint of the Kamal Nath-led Congress government between 2018 and 2020.

While a substantial section of voters across caste and class expressed a negative sentiment against the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government, either based on fatigue, dissatisfaction or simply a desire for change, the saffron party still enjoys a solid base of committed voters in this central Indian state.

A long association with the BJP’s style of governance – targeted welfare schemes and monetary assistance, especially to women and girls – and the deep roots of the Hindutva ideology with no counter-narrative at the grassroots, have kept the BJP as a dominant, if not hegemonic force in the state over the last few decades.

In 2018, even though the BJP lost the election to the Congress – the BJP got 109 seats against the Congress’ 114 seats – it secured almost 48,000 more votes than the Congress and enjoyed a lead of 0.13% in the popular vote share.

This story was originally published in Read the full story here .