The Congress has chosen “Janta khadi hai saath, Laut rahey hain Kamal Nath” as the main slogan to signal Nath as the chief ministerial face to take on BJP’s Shivraj Chouhan. The Congress has centred its key theme on the “deception” of Scindia and his loyalists.
A senior AICC functionary told ET, “We have decided that we would take a single message to the people – you voted Congress to power but your vote was sold off. This is nothing but cheating. Your mandate was with the Congress but some people sold it off.”
The by-elections were necessitated after Scindia quit the party, taking 25 MLAs with him (22 MLAs resigned together and three subsequently). Three more constituencies fell vacant after the deaths of the sitting MLAs. Of the 28 seats, 16 are in the Gwalior-Chambal region – considered to be Scindia’s stronghold. For the Maharaja, who is now a BJP MP, this is a high stakes battle as winning a sizeable number of seats in his home turf would strengthen his claim for a berth in Modi’s Cabinet.
There has been an internal debate within the party whether running a negative campaign featuring Scindia and his loyalists could backfire. However, the party has decided to liberally show the defectors with the BJP top leadership in its audio visual campaign.
The party is finalising a “Jaichand” campaign which would be used to accuse the defecting MLAs of taking money and joining the BJP. Other slogans the party has finalised include “Bikaau ko janta ki khari khari, Nahin ho sakega koi bhi gaddar bari” (electorate will give a befitting reply to the defectors who brought down the government) and “Loktantra ka samman karenge, Jaichandon ke khilaaf matdaan karenge”.
The Congress campaign, led by Nath and former chief minister Digvijaya Singh, will be focusing on potent issues including crime against women, handling of the pandemic by the state government and the farm legislations.
The bypolls are crucial for both the parties. At present, BJP has 107 MLAs in the 230-member assembly; the Congress has 88 MLAs. Congress needs to win all the byelections to wrest power from the BJP. Comparatively, the ruling BJP has an easier task at hand as it would need to corner only nine seats to retain power.