The Bharatiya Janata Party has conceded defeat in bypolls to the Mungaoli and Kolaras assembly seats, which were considered as a semi-final before assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh later this year. BJP had applied their full strength to win this ‘Scindia versus Shivraj’ battle. Many central ministers of BJP and almost all state cabinet ministers campaigned for the BJP candidates. Shivraj Singh Chouhan had left no stone unturned to ensure his party’s win.
The MP Chief Minister didn’t even mind bending before Yashodhara Raje Scindia in his efforts to ensure BJP’s victory. That there are differences between Yashodhara and Chouhan is no secret. Chouhan had diminished the stature of Yashodhara in the cabinet expansion last year. The ministry of commerce and industry had been snatched from Yashodhara, who was given the more lightweight responsibility of sports and youth welfare instead.
Kolaras and Mungaoli both fall under the area of influence of the erstwhile Scindia royals, to which both Yashodhara Raje and her nephew, Congress MP Jyotiraditya Scindia belong. Earlier, Yashodhara had maintained a distance from the election campaign. Then Shivraj, who sensed BJP’s likely defeat in the election, went to meet Yashodhara and personally invite her to participate in the campaign. After Yashodhara’s entry into the campaign, the competition went from ‘Scindia-vs-Shivraj’ to ‘Scindia vs Scindia’. Devendra Kumar Jain, BJP’s losing candidate in Kolaras, is reportedly a supporter of Yashodhara Raje Scindia.
During the byelections, Shivraj Singh Chouhan camped and did four rallies in the Sahrai and Panwari gram panchayats, which fall under Mungaoli Vidhan Sabha seat. Despite that, Shivraj could not win the faith of the masses. Congress won by 61 votes in the Sehrai polling booth, whereas BJP got 49 votes and Congress a whopping 490 votes from Panwari polling booth. This showed a continuing trend of declining popularity of Shivraj, which had become visible during the Chitrakoot assembly bypoll also. Even then, Congress got a huge number of votes wherever the Chief Minister had campaigned.
Shivraj Singh Chouhan went to the extent of ignoring even the model code of conduct to win the Kolaras-Mungaoli bypolls. Addressing a rally on 16 February, he had said that he would soon get a flyover constructed between Kukreta and Baksanpur river. He added that Congress would complain if he said more than this and that people should understand the rest on their own. Chouhan added that he would open “his” treasury after Bai Saheb Yadav wins on February 28, after which no one would have to cross the river, people would be able to walk above the river.
The Congress duly complained and the Election Commission in its order dated February 23, addressed Shivraj Singh Chouhan as “star campaigner” and told him to be "more careful in future" while making public speeches during elections and to not make any announcements.
This raises a question that whether it was the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister or BJP’s star campaigner who made the announcements during the model code of conduct. If it was the state’s chief minister, then why did the Election Commission mention Shivraj as a star campaigner in its reply? And if the person making announcement was BJP’s star campaigner, then by what authority was he announcing construction of a flyover?
In the Scindia vs Shivraj fight, it is the Congress who won, but who lost? Shivraj, BJP or the Election Commission?
Translated by Zaheeb Ajmal.