Emphatic win by Congress in MP’s Damoh bypolls a warning to the BJP
Many observers feel that by rejecting BJP, Damoh’s voters gave a verdict against performance of Shivraj Singh Chouhan government in MP, particularly its failure to deal with the COVID crisis
The victory of the Congress candidate in the bypoll in Damoh in Madhya Pradesh with a margin of more than 17,000 votes is being considered quite significant by political observers and has numerous implications. By voting for the Congress’ Ajay Tandon, Damoh’s voters have punished a defector. BJP candidate Rahul Lodhi, then in the Congress, had won the constituency in the 2018 Vidhan Sabha elections by defeating BJP stalwart Jayant Malaiya.
Later, at the behest of the BJP, he resigned from the Vidhan Sabha, joined BJP and contested the bypoll as a BJP candidate.
Incidentally, the BJP’s move to field Lodhi instead of former minister and MLA Jayant Malaiya had led to some heartburn although Malaiya was persuaded to work for the party. Despite that, immediately after the election results, Lodhi accused Malaiya of sabotaging the election and demanded disciplinary action against him.
The defeat in Damoh gave a serious shock to the BJP largely because it treated the by-election as a prestige contest. Almost the entire state leadership, including the chief minister, more than a dozen ministers,
two or three Central ministers and state party chief VD Sharma addressed meetings in Damoh and some of them camped there for many days. This included health minister Dr. Prabhu Ram Choudhary, who earned criticism in the process for ignoring the COVID crisis.
Other important BJP leaders who camped in Damoh included Union minister Prahalad Patel and state ministers Gopal Bhargava and Bhupendra Singh.
The results have thus come as a rude shock for the state BJP leadership, who were confident of a victory. Murmurs of sabotage have been doing the rounds within the party. Though the BJP is yet to react officially to the loss, Prahalad Patel, who led Lodhi's campaign, was the first to congratulate Ajay Tandon through a tweet even before the results were announced.
The key factor to the by-election was former minister Jayant Malaiya. Malaiya has won six elections from Damoh. Lodhi's joining the BJP angered Malaiyas. The poll outcome has made it clear that the anger of Malaiya'a supporters played a significant role in the polls.
Not only that, the caste equation has gone against the BJP in this election. Once Lodhi was given the ticket, it turned out to be a contest between Lodhis versus all. The dissatisfaction and anger among the voters could be gauged by the fact that Lodhi lost in his own polling booth.
Congress candidate Ajay Tandon led right from the time counting began and increased his margin towards the end. Tandon belongs to a traditional Congress family. Several members of the family have contested elections on the Congress ticket. They include the late Prabhu Narayan Tandon, who occupied ministerial positions in several Congress governments.
Many observers feel that by rejecting the BJP candidate, Damoh’s voters gave a verdict against the performance of the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government in MP, particularly over the complacency shown by it before the second wave of COVID-19 hit the country and the state.
There is a general feeling that the BJP government failed to take preventive steps to avert the second wave. Perhaps it was also a vote against its failure on several other fronts.
The Damoh result has also re-established faith in the capability of senior Congress leader Kamal Nath, who was involved in forming the strategy for the by-poll. Instead of organising big public meetings, he concentrated on small meetings and door to door campaigns.
He provided all possible resources to Tandon and also took steps to unite local party men to overcome factional differences.
Commenting on the outcome of the Assembly polls in four states and UT of Puducherry, Kamal Nath said that the Congress would introspect and will make a strategy for the Lok Sabha polls in 2024. Addressing a press
conference in Bhopal, he said that the BJP was defeated badly in West Bengal where it had been claiming to win 200 plus seats.
When asked to react over the outcome of the state polls and the by-election in Damoh, Nath said that a message has been sent that the BJP’s style of politics would not last.
Besides the Damoh result, the Bengal verdict will also affect politics in Madhya Pradesh. BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya, hailing from MP, was given charge of West Bengal. As general secretary of the party, he was expected to carry out ground work to strengthen the party for which he had been camping in Bengal for long.
The central leadership of the party was counting on Vijayvargiya’s advice, and he himself was confident that the BJP will capture power in West Bengal. Now that the party has failed to do that, it will affect his position and influence not only at the central level but also in Madhya Pradesh.
Views are personal