Campaigning for political parties in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh is going to be tougher and riskier in the days to come, if the mobilisation of upper caste youths across the state during the Bharat Bandh on Thursday is anything to go by.
The bandh called by 35-odd upper caste organisations on social media was peaceful, barring one incident of cane charge in Shahdol district. But the anti-reservationist protestors gave enough indications that electioneering in the state is likely to be fraught with worries for main contestants, including the ruling BJP, the Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party.
Defying prohibitory orders under section 144 of the CrPC, upper caste youths hit the streets in large numbers. They raised slogans against the recent constitutional amendment in the SC/ST (Prevention of atrocities) Act and forced business establishments to down the shutters. Heavy deployment of police ensured peace but did not deter the protestors.
At the forefront was SAPAKS (Samanya Pichhda Alpsankhayak Kalyan Samaj) party, a fledgling political outfit.
Black flags were shown to BJP leader Jayant Mallaiya in Chhatarpur where he had gone to attend the party's divisional election management committee meeting. Most of the BJP and Congress leaders remained indoors, fearing opposition. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh, however, continued his Jan Ashirvad Yatra amid tight security. He will cover rest of his scheduled journey till September 25, mostly by helicopter, to avoid face-off with anti-reservationists, according to BJP sources.
Tension is palpable across the state due to the ongoing anti-reservation stir. The administration is worried about potential trouble when top leaders of BJP and Congress campaign in the state. BJP president Amit Shah is scheduled to arrive in Madhya Pradesh on September 12 , and five days later Congress chief Rahul Gandhi is slated to address an election meeting in Bhopal.