Congress beats BJP in a cliffhanger contest in Madhya Pradesh
The results of the 2018 Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh is out, and the Indian National Congress (INC) has beaten the Shivraj Singh Chouhan Singh-led BJP to emerge with maximum seats – 114 out of a total of 230 seats.
The final results:
Total Seats: 230
|Party||Seats||Number of Votes||Vote Share|
|Indian National Congress (INC)||114||15,595,153||40.9%|
|Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)||109||15,642,980||41.0%|
|Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)||2||19,11,642||5.0%|
This election has been one of the closest fought and most followed Assembly election in a long time. Before the exit polls were announced, the BJP was confident of a resounding win, and Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the all-powerful leader in the state, seemed all set for the fourth term in office.
The first indicator that all was not right was the Exit Poll of Polls which quite accurately predicted the results for the BJP and INC. The poll predicted BJP would win 110 seats and the INC 109. The final score came in favour of INC which delivered 114 seats, one seat short of the halfway mark. The BJP ended with 109 seats.
The Election Commission took 24 hours to complete the counting which saw both parties running neck-to-neck in one of the most exciting polls ever. Right until this morning it was anybody’s guess. In the end, the Congress trumped the well-entrenched Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
For the BJP, losing MP along with Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan just short of crucial general elections in 2019 is a major setback. The biggest loss is the general perception of the BJP being invincible in the Hindi heartland, and Narendra Modi continues to ride the popularity wave in being the unmatched leader who delivers victory after victory in state after state.
After losing three crucial states which were its stronghold, the party has to go back to the drawing board to rethink of ways to win back the perception fight from the Congress. The challenge is time.
Let’s look at what went wrong for Shivraj Singh Chouhan and the BJP in M.P.
The following factors are common in contributing to BJP’s defeat in all three states:
The government has completely failed to address farmer distress across the country. Low prices, often below investment, has ensured farmer incomes have either stagnated or have come down. Rising prices of agricultural inputs, lack of insurance cover, availability of adequate seeds, poor investment in irrigation infrastructure, poor access to agricultural wholesale centres, and erratic monsoons, have simply broken the farmer’s back.
Several farmer suicide cases have been reported across the country and especially in M.P., and yet the government seemed too pre-occupied pushing its Hindutva agenda. Farmers are fighting to survive, and both the centre and the state have been guilty of not addressing the issue adequately. The farmers have responded in the only way they can, voting out the existing government in the state. The frustration expressed itself in these elections, and the angst may spill over into 2019.
Lack of new job creation
Despite M.P being one of the fastest growing states in the country, very few new jobs were created. Since 2013, large numbers of youth have joined the voter list but remain without jobs. Their votes went against the ruling party.
It has been a disaster for the BJP, but the party continues to remain in denial, similar to its approach to farmer’s distress. The badly planned and poorly executed demonetization exercise sucked away cash from the market, leaving the poorer sections of society most affected since they exist on petty cash for their day-to-day survival.
Alienation of Dalits, backward classes and tribals
The BJP has cultivated its upper caste vote banks at the cost of the Dalits and other marginal groups. The BJP has launched several schemes to benefit weaker sections of society, but most are farmers and have not benefitted substantially by these schemes. Large sections of the Dalits voted against UPA-II and in favour of the BJP in 2013. In 2018, the party has largely negated those gains. Expect this to impact BJP’s chances in 2019.
It remains a major blot on the CM Chouhan’s otherwise positive record. The extended and inconclusive investigation has not gone down well with large sections of society who remain unconvinced of the government’s intention in finding the truth and punishing the guilty.
Several accusations of corruption by members of the CM’s family has left an impact on the voter’s mind. The accusations along with other central controversies like the Rafale deal is impacting the BJP’s clean image across the country and M.P is no exception. In corruption, Congress has found a strategic handle to go after Shivraj Singh Chouhan, and somewhere this has hurt the CM and his party.
Lack of new faces or ideas
Three consecutive terms can erode the best of goodwill and voter fatigue with same faces has forced them to seek alternatives. With general elections around the corner, the timing couldn’t be worse. The voters have voted for change.
Congress resurgence at the grassroots level
Anti-incumbency has affected the BJP, and the Congress was early in identifying the opportunity. Despite having no CM face, three CM contenders and no clear economic agenda, the Congress successfully drove home the message that the BJP had failed the people. The battle of perception, BJP strong point, was used against it by a wily Congress who reached out to the masses. On December 7, they expressed their option.
It’s now for the next government to take stock and start addressing the people’s problems right away or 2019 may throw up surprises of another kind.
Map of Madhya Pradesh Vidhan Sabha Constituencies