Team Absolute|Bhopal The ruling BJP and the opposition Congress are face-to-face in by-elections in 28 Assembly constituencies in Madhya Pradesh scheduled for November 3. Unfortunate circumstances – deaths of three sitting MLAs – and resignations of 25 Congress MLAs have led to these by-elections, within two years of the election in 2018 that had brought the Congress to power with the support of independents and smaller parties. The BJP displaced the Congress in March, following the defection of 22 Congress MLAs. Three more followed suit in later months. Most of these 25 are likely to enter the fray as BJP candidates this time. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is leading the BJP campaign and he needs to win at least nine seats to have an absolute majority in the Assembly of 230. The BJP now has 107 MLAs. The Congress has 88 MLAs and it needs to win all the 28 seats to return to power on its own. If it wins 21, four Independent MLAs, two BSP MLAs and one SP MLA will be in play again. The BJP has the advantage of being in power at the Centre and in the State, but the Congress led by former Chief Minister Kamal Nath is trying to wrest power by drawing attention to its own record over a period of more than a year, and the failings of the present government. Most of these seats are around Gwalior, areas considered as the sphere of influence of Jyotiraditya Scindia who led the Congress defectors to the BJP. The entry of adversaries has complicated power balances within the BJP in the State. Chouhan’s effectiveness in the usurpation of power has not extended to governance in the following months, and Madhya Pradesh’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has been chaotic. The Congress campaign puts the spotlight on the mismanagement of the pandemic, and it has promised a government job to each family that has lost a member to the disease. A considerable population from these northern regions of the State used to work in urban centres outside the State and they had to return in distress during the lockdown. Several insta of police brutality earned the State government infamy in recent months. The defector-MLAs will be required to explain their conduct as the Congress accuses them of betraying the 2018 mandate. Along with Chouhan, Scindia too is facing a test. Now a Rajya Sabha member from the BJP, he is hoping to be inducted into the Union Cabinet and the results of the by-elections will reflect his political clout in the region and impact his own standing in his new party, the BJP. His exit has ended the infighting in the Congress and opens the possibility of a new politics for it in the Gwalior region. Regardless of the outcomes, these by-elections will signify the reshaping of both the Congress and the BJP in Madhya Pradesh.