Madhya Pradesh BJP banks on ‘Labharthi’ to beat anti-incumbency ahead of assembly polls

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Madhya Pradesh has decided to focus on beneficiaries of various government schemes, besides temple redevelopment and other infrastructure projects, to counter anti-incumbency in the assembly polls next year, party leaders said.

The BJP-led state government has decided to create a new vote bank called “Labharthi”, comprising beneficiaries of various government schemes, said a senior party leader who did not wish to be named.

Political analysts see it as an attempt by the Madhya Pradesh government to win the 2023 elections by replicating the model successfully followed by the BJP in Uttar Pradesh in the run-up to the assembly polls earlier this year.

Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has already launched the CM Jan Sewa (public service) campaign in this regard. “This campaign is for good governance and to give benefit of all the schemes to eligible people,” Chouhan said while launching the programme last month. “We will not leave any stone unturned to change the lives of people with central and state government schemes.”

According to state officials, over 8.3 million people have been benefited in Madhya Pradesh from the government’s 38 different schemes, such as Ayushman Bharat, Swacch Bharat, Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi, Jeevan Jyoti Bima, Ujjwala and Gramin Path Vikreta during this campaign.

Besides those who availed benefits of these schemes, people who sought the assistance of a government office for various other works, including correction in land records or issuance of a caste certificate, will also be listed as beneficiaries, data given by the chief minister’s office suggested.

“Nearly 1.6 million new beneficiaries fall in this category alone,” said a senior official, requesting anonymity. It has been done to add a large number of families, especially from the “middle class”, in the list of beneficiaries, the official added.

The senior party leader quoted above said the government was also focusing on renovating and developing temples in Madhya Pradesh. After completion of the first phase of Mahakaleshwar Temple for 354 crore, the state government will spend another 3,000 crore on development of five other temples — Devi Lok in Salkanpur, Aadi Shankaracharya statue in Omkareshwar, Peetambara Peet in Datia, Shanishchara in Chitrakut, and Maihar temple in Satna — followed by the phase-2 work of Mahakaleshwar at an estimated cost of over 400 crore.

“It is necessary to develop temples to preserve the culture and tradition of India,” said state’s culture and tourism minister Usha Thakur in MP Foundation day programme . “It will also attract tourists to MP.”

The Madhya Pradesh government also believes that the development of roads, highways and bridges had played an important role in the BJP’s victory in Uttar Pradesh.

In the last six months, Union minister of road and transports Nitin Gadkari laid foundation stones of projects worth 4,600 crore in three different regions. In Gwalior, an elevated road will be constructed at an estimated cost of 1,128 crore. In Indore, 2,300 crore will be spent on roads and flyover construction while in Jabalpur, roads and highways will be constructed for 1,282 crore, party leaders said.

“It’s not a Uttar Pradesh model, but an ideology of the BJP to give benefits to as many people as we can to preserve our culture and development,” said BJP state president VD Sharma. “We are happy that we have formed a new category of “Labharthi”. Before the elections, BJP workers will hold door-to-door campaign to remind that the party believes in changing people’s lives. The development of temple is always a priority for the BJP.”

Sharma further said that the beneficiaries of government schemes belong to all categories. “We want to win the trust of all the communities that were treated as a vote bank by the Congress,” he said, adding that the party gave tickets to 380 Muslim candidates in the local body polls held in July this year and 92 of them won.

Though the state government was following UP model to win the elections, things will not be easy in Madhya Pradesh, said political analysts.

“There was anti-incumbency in Uttar Pradesh, but a category of Labharthi who got a house, gas connection, water connection, subsidised power and ration voted in favour of the BJP and it helped,” said Bhopal-based political analyst Girija Shankar. “In MP, these things will not work because anti-incumbency will be of almost 18 years. BJP needs to take concrete steps to come up with new issues that can surprise the voters, something that it did in Gujarat by replacing the entire Cabinet.”

The Opposition Congress said the list of beneficiaries was nothing but jumbling of numbers. “If the BJP leaders will go in the field, they will realise that people are facing atrocities, inflation and corruption,” said KK Mishra, spokesperson, MP Congress. “The whooping number of beneficiaries is nothing but jumbling of numbers. In 2023, people will not believe in any lies of the BJP and will vote for change only.”

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