The central leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has become increasingly concerned about the lackluster response to the Jan Ashirvad Yatra, a campaign aimed at garnering support ahead of the impending elections in Madhya Pradesh. This unease is exacerbated by a series of defections to the Opposition Congress, according to informed sources.
The BJP had announced the yatra from five locations, distinct from previous years, where no specific leader would lead it, in contrast to Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s role in previous election campaigns.
One source revealed that BJP Chief JP Nadda convened a meeting in Delhi on Monday to address the underwhelming public response to the yatra and the growing issue of defections. Initially, the meeting was intended to discuss the second list of candidates, expected to be announced this week.
Of particular concern to the party leadership are the defections of prominent figures such as Deepak Joshi, Bhanwarsingh Shekhawat, and Girijashankar Sharma, who have been steadfast supporters of the BJP’s ideology. Girijashankar Sharma, a two-time legislator, was denied a BJP ticket in both the 2013 and 2018 assembly elections.
The BJP has held power in Madhya Pradesh since 2003, with a brief interruption between 2018 and 2020. In an effort to counter anti-incumbency sentiments and internal disputes, Union Home Minister Amit Shah has made several visits to the state. Additionally, Chief Minister Chouhan recently expanded his Cabinet by inducting three ministers to address similar concerns.
The upcoming elections in Madhya Pradesh, along with four other states, are expected to set the tone for the 2024 national elections. The Congress party is eager to regain control of Madhya Pradesh after briefly holding power in 2018, only to lose it in March 2020 due to the resignation of 22 legislators.
In May, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi expressed confidence in the party’s victory in the state, aiming to secure 150 out of 230 seats. The BJP, on the other hand, lost power in Himachal Pradesh in 2022 and Karnataka in May.
Another source revealed the BJP leadership’s dissatisfaction with the “less-than-impressive” response to the yatra, noting that the participation of the public has fallen short of expectations. Concerns have arisen regarding the public’s level of enthusiasm, with reports suggesting limited support. The party has received a mixed response through emails and letters, both in favor of and against local leaders, including candidates for 39 seats.
The Jan Ashirvad Yatra, which commenced on September 3 from Chitrakoot, is set to conclude with a workers’ rally in Bhopal on September 25, coinciding with the birth anniversary of BJP precursor Bharatiya Jana Sangh leader Deendayal Upadhyay.
The third source pointed out that the yatra has primarily been embraced by BJP workers and beneficiaries of government schemes, with a noticeable lack of the fervor seen during previous pre-election yatras. Factionalism within the party has also contributed to a subdued atmosphere.
Incidents such as stone-throwing at yatra vehicles in Neemuch were initially attributed to local issues related to the Cheetah project but have raised concerns. Protests have emerged in other regions as well, contributing to the party’s apprehension.
While some BJP leaders deny factionalism and assert that Congress is attempting to disrupt the yatra due to its popularity, the overall atmosphere suggests a challenging political landscape in the lead-up to the Madhya Pradesh elections.