As Madhya Pradesh goes to polls today, the air is tense with apprehension and expectation about the peoples’ verdict which remains inscrutable, and vindicates the old Latin maxim, vox populi vox dei (The voice of the people is the voice of God).
Even those who spoke to dna about BJP government under chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan romping home for a third time though with a reduced majority and the unlikely prospects of a thumping Congress victory were not willing to stick their neck out and say anything about the actual outcome. The urban scene is relatively dismal and the rural mood is relatively positive. But it is not sufficient to say what will be the result of Monday’s voting.
The mood in Jabalpur is symptomatic of many towns in the state. There is a strong strain of discontentment which cannot be wished way. KK Chadha, 57, who runs an automobile parts store, says, “Jabalpur is not a city of aspirations. It is just meant for dal-roti.” He says basic amenities are available. There is an airport, and there is a railway station connecting with key parts of the country. The Tatas, Birlas, Reliance have set up business outlets for people to buy things, and they provide a bit of employment. But majority of the jobs are provided by the ordnance factory and the vehicle factory for the defence forces. He says the education is not good enough. He did not send his children out because they have entered the family business and he could not afford to send them out for studies.
A BJP supporter like Sanjay Kumar, 30, a paan-shopwallah in the heart of the city is confident that there is a Shivraj Singh Chouhan wave and BJP will win six out of eight assemble seats in the Jabalpur region. But another active BJP worker, who owns a three-wheeler and a Maruti van, while praising Chouhan and the BJP, admits that there has not been much development in the city. He complains about rising prices of vegetable with potatoes selling for Rs 20 a kg, tomatoes touching Rs50 and onions going up to Rs40.
Asked whether Jyotiraditya Scindia leading the Congress into the electoral battle has made much difference for the party, AN Agarwal of Jabalpur says: “He does not have time for anything but Gwalior. He is tied up there.”
People are not willing to say which way the election will go. The unanimous verdict is that it is difficult to say how people will vote and that it is they – the people, the amorphous mass of individuals from village and town – who will decide the fate of parties, and that the views of few individuals do not matter.