First Post Politics
New Delhi

With the unexpected success  of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal has put self-doubt in the minds of rival politicians. Now, with AAP throwing its hat in the ring in Madhya Pradesh too, the scenario is suddenly drastically changed. Bipolar states such as Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand in the Hindi heartland would avidly watch the AAP progress during the Lok Sabha elections in April. Kejriwal in the office of the CM. PTI It was for want of a strong alternative that Madhya Pradesh just handed the BJP a third term. But the BJP's euphoria has subsided considerably after AAP announced its plans for the General elections. Even with no more than a fledgling organisational structure, AAP's Madhya Pradesh unit is flooded with membership applications. Former state chief secretary S C Behar is among the prominent new entrants in the Aam Aadmi Party here. The party may also rope in another former senior bureaucrat, M N Buch, and former director general of police Arun Gurtoo. AAP recently marked its presence in the state with the arrest of its six workers who protested against chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan keeping two government bungalows for his use. The very issue which the BJP exploited against the AAP chief minister in Delhi recoiled on it in Madhya Pradesh. AAP has also effectively exploited the scandal involving the professional examination board that continues to embarrass the BJP. Hundreds of candidates have passed different professional examinations with the connivance of bureaucrats, ministers and other BJP supporters to earn government jobs. The money that changed hands in bribes runs into several hundred crore rupees. The Congress failed to pin down the government on this issue. With the Scindia and Digvijay Singh factions slugging it out, the Congress’s popularity ratings continue to drop. And AAP is the natural beneficiary. The party is also counting a large share of over six lakh NOTA (None Of The Above) votes that were cast during the Assembly elections. Senior BJP leaders avoid discussing the AAP phenomenon in public. Former chief minister Kailash Joshi said the AAP influence in the state can’t be denied outright, but his party would like to wait and watch. The RSS has, however, cautioned its members against the growing threat without naming it. Sangh Supremo Mohan Bhagwat who addressed the workers’ sankalp mahashivir (resolution camp) that concluded on Sunday at Jabalpur said they had forsaken austerity after the BJP came to power in some states. He said some Sangh members abused their position in the political organisation and even sabotaged the party candidate’s election. With the BJP’s prospects of regaining power at the Centre brightening, it had become fashionable to join the RSS, said Bhagwat. But, he said, the new entrants lacked conviction. By just reverting to the agenda of austerity, some parties could overtake the BJP, he said, apparently referring to AAP. Bhagwat also cautioned Sangh workers against jostling to take credit for the BJP’s success. There is a raging debate on who should get the credit for the party’s performance in the Assembly elections, the star campaigner Narendra Modi or Chief Minister Chouhan, who gamely shouldered the failures of a vulnerable team of ministers. Now in his third straight term Chouhan shows firmness of demeanour and tone. He has already warned the bureaucracy of “zero tolerance” against corruption and has asked his ministers to draw up a 100-day action plan for departments. The clear refrain is: perform or perish. Most ministers seen as performers during Chouhan’s earlier tenure are ironically out of the team. Some are booked for corruption, some were rejected by the electorate and a few others were denied party nomination. Chouhan’s repeated warnings on corruption sound hollow as there is no effort to pursue the cases pending with the Lokayukta against former ministers and senior bureaucrats. For the entire clamour for clean politics the state has witnessed a six per cent rise in the number of MLAs facing criminal charges compared to figures of the 2008 elections. The National Election Watch (NEW) and Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) said that out of 71 MLAs with criminal records, 48 MLAs are from the BJP and 23 from Congress.

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