The BJP may have to struggle to retain Madhya Pradesh when it goes to polls next year, courtesy the “corrupt babus” of the state, feel Bhopal based political observers, leaders and journalists.

A top leader of the BJP, which has ruled MP since 2003 with Shivraj Singh Chouhan at the helm, said the party faces many roadblocks: anti-incumbency is marked in rural areas, farmers are resentful and the business community is upset because of the “centralisation of corruption”, allegedly being encouraged by the bureaucracy.

According to the opponents of the BJP and some political observers, a section of the bureaucrats is protecting and promoting the corrupt in MP.

“Speak to any businessman, they will tell you the harassment they are facing from the corrupt government officials at the ground level. Corruption has become institutionalised and it has undone the good work Shivraj Singh Chouhan claims to his credit. People have started missing the rule of the Congress when there was no rampant corruption, although the state lacked good roads and electricity,” a businessman, who is into automobiles, said.

But a top BJP leader told The Sunday Guardian that the party has begun its damage-control exercise. “The traders have told us that they are facing hardship due to corruption. We will take it up at the appropriate forum. The image of the Chief Minister is being dented due to some bureaucrats. The political leadership of the state, I am sure, will look at this issue very seriously,” the leader quoted said.

Businessmen remain sceptical. A restaurant owner in Bhopal said it had become very difficult to run his business. “No new investments have come in the state as the investor now knows that he will have to grease the palms of dozens of officials to start his business. I know at least two Mumbai based friends of mine who wanted to open a restaurant in Bhopal and Indore but dropped the plan due to corrupt practices at every stage,” he said.

But a top BJP leader said that the party has begun its damage-control exercise. “The political leadership of the state, I am sure, will look at this issue very seriously,” the leader said. 
A senior Bhopal based journalist, who works with a national news agency, said that a systematic “chain” was working in the state and it is managed by senior bureaucrats. “Every department has been divided among the senior babus; rates of getting work too are fixed. Districts too have been divided among the top few bureaucrats and it is they who ‘look’ after these districts as to who will be the magistrate there, what will be the ‘rate’ of getting work in that particular district. The anti-corruption body, Lokayukta, has been reduced to a toothless tiger whose summons are not acknowledged,” he said.

According to Ajay Dubey, who is a Bhopal based anti-corruption activist, the opposition in the Assembly, the anti-corruption body, the media and the Governor’s house, all of which are supposed to act as a check and balance factor, have become “government friendly” forums. This has made corruption rampant in the state, he claimed.

“Some of the media has been managed in the state by these bureaucrats. Many journalists are running government-funded websites. The State Information Commission, which we used to unearth evidence, too has become ‘government-friendly’. Corruption is eroding the government’s popularity in the state,” Dubey alleged.

An editor with a Hindi daily in the state said that corruption will be an important issue for the 2018 Assembly polls, likely to be held in less than 11 months. “This corruption is not like the VYAPAM scam. It is something that the common people are witnessing. Fifteen years of anti-incumbency is a big factor and if the Congress manages to get its house in order, it might do well,” he said.


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