The state will vote on November 17
Less than two weeks before Madhya Pradesh picks its new government, an NDTV-CSDS Lokniti Poll has revealed that voters prefer the incumbent chief minister, Shivraj Singh Chouhan over the Congress' Kamal Nath, who was heading the state before him. The margin, however, may give the BJP pause, because it is just four percentage points.
Over 3,000 people were surveyed in the week starting October 24 in 30 of the state's 230 assembly constituencies and the results will buoy the BJP as people believe roads, electricity and hospitals have improved under the Chouhan government. The answers will also give the party food for thought because people are evenly split on whether women's safety has improved or worsened under it, and 36% have said the condition of Dalits has worsened.
The Congress can also take heart from the narrow margin that was thrown up when those surveyed were asked whether the 2018- 2020 Kamal Nath government performed better or the 2020-2023 Shivraj Singh Chouhan government. While 36% said the Chouhan government did better, 34% spoke in favour of the Nath government.
The Congress had formed the government in 2018 but Kamal Nath had to step down in 2020 after a rebellion led by senior leader Jyotiraditya Scindia, who joined the BJP.
Performance Above All?
Asked how they would rate the Shivraj government's performance, 27% said they were fully satisfied, 34% said they were somewhat satisfied, while 34% said they were somewhat or fully dissatisfied.
In a sign that the Narendra Modi factor continues to play a big part in the country's elections the Central government fared even better, with 65% saying they were somewhat or fully satisfied with its performance and only 29% saying they were somewhat or fully dissatisfied.
On whether the Kamal Nath government had performed better or the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government, 36% said the latter had performed better and 34% picked the Nath government. Of those surveyed, 13% said they were satisfied with both governments and 11% said they were dissatisfied with them.
Health, Education and Women's Safety
The poll revealed that most people believed the state of roads, water supply, hospitals and government schools have improved under the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government. On roads, 55% said they had improved, against 28% who said they had worsened. For electricity, the split was 54% to 24%, for water, it was 43% to 32%, and for government schools, it was 41% to 24%.
The numbers were closer when it came to government hospitals and law and order. 36% said government hospitals had improved while 33% said they had worsened, while 36% said law and order had improved and 30% said it had worsened.
A key issue, on which people were evenly split, was women's safety, with 36% saying that it had improved and an equal number saying it had worsened.
When the surveyors asked who had worked more for women, 16% said it was the Narendra Modi-led Centre, 9% said it was the state government. 41% said both governments had worked for women, while 16% said no one had.
On the pocketbook issue of inflation and the other key areas like unemployment and corruption, most people said all three had increased but also said the Centre and the state have done a good job of combating corruption.
On inflation, 82% said it had gone up, 8% said it had stayed the same and another 8% said it had decreased. When asked about unemployment, 45% said it had gone up, 28% said it had remained the same and 19% said it had gone down.
When it came to the state of corruption, 61% said it had risen while 20% said it had gone down. Asked to rate the centre and the state on curbing corruption, 67% said the Centre had done a good or very good job while the figure was 63% for the state.
Among those surveyed, most picked price rise and unemployment as the key issues for the upcoming election. 27% picked price rise, unemployment was picked by an equal number while 13% said poverty was the key issue and 8% chose lack of development.
Asked whether farmer discontent was an election issue, 53% said it was very important and 22% said it was somewhat important. The government recruitment scam also emerged as a key issue with 67% saying it was somewhat or very important.
The opposition's push for a caste census also seemed to have found resonance among those surveyed, with 44% saying it should be conducted and only 24% saying it shouldn't.
Who Should Be Chief Minister?
Asked who they would like to see as the next chief minister, 38% said it should be Shivraj Singh Chouhan while 34% picked Kamal Nath. Jyotiraditya Scindia got 4% of the votes and Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar got 2%.
The survey indicated that the party matters more than the candidate with 37% picking the former and 30% saying the candidate matters more. 10% said the party's chief minister's face matters and an equal number said Narendra Modi matters. For Rahul Gandhi, the figure was 5%.
Who Votes For Whom
According to the poll, BJP will get a larger share of the women's vote, but again by a small margin. Among those polled, 46% of the women said they will vote for the BJP while 44% said they will vote for the opposition party. Men were evenly split, with 41% picking the BJP and an equal number going for the Congress.
The BJP seems to have a clear edge in urban areas, with 55% saying they will vote for it against 35% for the Congress. But the situation gets flipped in rural areas, albeit with a lower margin, with 44% picking the Congress and 39% going for the BJP.
The vote of the poor seems to be tilting towards the Congress with 48% saying they will vote for it, against 35% for the BJP. The BJP wins out when it comes to the middle class and the wealthy, however, with 50% of the middle class and 63% of the wealthy picking the party, against 38% and 29% for the Congress.
Four groups where the BJP seems to be behind are tribals, Muslims, Dalits and farmers. 53% of tribals said they would vote for the Congress and 36% picked the BJP. Among Muslims, 85% picked the opposition party against 6% for the ruling party.
50% of Dalits said they would vote for the Congress compared to 32% for the BJP and the numbers were 43% to 36% for farmers.
The OBC vote seems to be going to the BJP, however, with 50% saying they would vote for the BJP against 33% for the Congress.
The state's OBC Welfare Commission has said 48% of the state's voters belong to other backward classes.
Asked whether the condition of Dalits had improved, 30% said it had but 36% said it had worsened. The situation was similar for tribals, with 34% saying their condition had worsened and 29% saying it had improved.
Dalits are an important vote bank and make up 15.6% of the state's population as per the 2011 Census. At 21.1%, tribals are even more important. Polls will be held in the state on November 17.