Deft party leadership brings Congress victory in Madhya Pradesh
Failures of the BJP-led governments at the Centre and in Bhopal also contributed to the saffron party’s defeat
The Congress has made it 3-0 in the heartland. The 15-year-long power drought in Madhya Pradesh finally ended for the Congress with Governor Anandiben Patel inviting its leaders to stake claim to form the government. The alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Samajwadi Party (SP) that failed to materialise before the elections has now taken shape.
As the largest single party with 114 seats, the Congress fell just two short of simple majority in an Assembly of 230 seats. The BJP, on the other hand, lay five seats behind the Congress and seven behind the majority mark.
However, with a friendly Governor in office, the BJP tried to stretch its luck and sought to press its claim.
It was quite a familiar situation for the Congress, considering its experiences in Goa, Tripura and Manipur where it was denied power despite having the right credentials.
Now seven “others”, who included two BSP, one SP and four independent members, held the key to power. The BSP had made it clear that it would not allow its members to go with the BJP. On the call of party president Akhilesh Yadav, the SP member also offered to support the Congress. If the BJP still expected to form the government, it must have been relying heavily on the Governor’s “discretion. “
However, senior party members, along with some RSS representatives, held a meeting with Shivraj Singh Chouhan apparently to stop him from going ahead with his claim. Chouhan’s former colleague Narottam Mishra, however, twisted the tale by suggesting that the Congress should not confuse the people and the BJP was going to continue in power.
The BJP didn’t have to go far to find the reasons for its failure just when it seemed poised to cash in on outgoing Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s mass connect. Between them, Amit Shah and Narendra Modi made more than 30 visits to the state. The gains apparently did not match the intensity of the duo’s campaign
State Congress president Kamal Nath had on Tuesday written to the Governor to invite his party to form the government. He claimed the support of independents.
Tensions mounted as the final tally was available almost 24 hours after the counting began. The delay was attributed to the Congress’ demand to certify the count after each round. Fortunes fluctuated each minute for best part of the day before the Congress nudged past the BJP to emerge as the largest party.
The BJP didn’t have to go far to find the reasons for its failure just when it seemed poised to cash in on outgoing Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s mass connect. Between them, Amit Shah and Narendra Modi made more than 30 visits to the state. The gains apparently did not match the intensity of the duo’s campaign. Shah had during his first pre-election trip haughtily announced that his party would cross the 200 mark in the state. “Abki baar 200 paar” was the party’s slogan. Shah even said the party would not present a chief ministerial face this time around. But sensing that their traction with the people was not that great, Shah had to take a U-turn to ask Chouhan to head the campaign.
Curiosity is bound to be there on how the Congress pulled it off against the run of the play. The Congress raised its performance this time by asking old warhorse Kamal Nath to team up with a young Jyotiraditya Scindia at the helm of the party in the state. Besides the incumbency fatigue in the state, the party also realised the Modi government at the Centre had become a baggage and not an advantage. During his previous terms, Shivraj Singh Chouhan could feign victimhood vis-a-vis the UPA government at the Centre. This time around, it could not lay the blame for its own failures at the door of the Centre. Flawed implementation of GST (which the state government had resisted), the Demonetisation fiasco and rising prices of essentials had also weighed on the voters’ minds.
Strangely, however, the theatre of rural dismay, Mandsaur, which witnessed police firing that claimed five farmers’ lives two years ago, seemed to have pardoned the BJP. All the four seats from Mandsaur went to the BJP. Both the Congress and the BJP had almost equal share of votes elsewhere in the Malwa-Nimar area, traditionally a BJP stronghold.
Thirteen ministers, including finance minister Jayant Malaiyya and revenue and science and technology minister Umashankar Gupta, have lost the election. The BJP had already denied tickets to more than 40 members. Despite that, it could not avoid people’s ire.
Some key Congress members, including leader of the Opposition Rahul Singh, former PCC presidents Suresh Pachauri and Arun Yadav, also fell by the wayside.
Percentage-wise, the Congress and the BJP almost equally shared the votes. While the Congress go 40.9 per cent, the BJP polled 41 per cent. The BSP walked out on Congress’ proposal for a pre-poll alliance as it wanted to contest 35 seats. It found its vote share reduced to five per cent as compared to last year’s eight.
The Sapaks Party which was formed from the anger over the Modi government’s Ordinance to reinforce the Act to protect Scheduled Castes and Tribes, cut a sorry figure winning just 0.4 per cent of the votes. It was meant to cut into the Congress vote share but the BJP suffered the recoil.