What looked probable earlier looks like a certainty now. BJP could have toppled the government before the results came out, but the party decided to wait it out. Now, with the mandate clear, nothing stops BJP from making a move against the Kamal Nath-led Congress government.
A vulnerable victory in assembly elections
The December 2018 assembly election results showed the BJP winning 41% vote share, a narrow 0.9% edge over Congress’s 40.9%, and yet, BJP won only 109 seats against 114 by the Congress. The coming to power by the Congress jolted the three-time Shivraj Chauhan-led BJP government. However, the party didn’t waste any time given the 2019 Lok Sabha elections were around the corner.
The biggest cause of angst against the Shivraj Chauhan government was the farmer distress, and it affected a wide section of voters. Congress played upon this factor by promising a farm waiver immediately on coming to power. It was too good an offer for the marginalized farmers who were facing farm loan repayment pressures. Moreover, even the monsoon had repeatedly been erratic. They voted in the Congress, but only just. 114 seats against BJP’s 109 would mean the Congress government would remain politically vulnerable.
BJP realized it had its back to the wall, since the Kamal Nath government moved swiftly to erase maximum number of farmer’s loans within the first 30 days. BJP realized it had to outmaneuver the message. Its extensive party cadres, built over a decade and a half, got active in reaching out to the farmers. They claimed it was an empty promise. The message had its effect, creating doubt among certain sections that weren’t the early recipients of the farm waiver. This message was further reinforced by the party by invoking Narendra Modi’s work at the centre. By conveying that Modi was the only person who could address their long term needs of improving production and higher MSP. The results show it worked. BJP completely swept the elections winning 28 of the 29 Lok Sabha seats. The lone seat was won by the CM’s son Nakul Nath (Cong) from Chhindwara by a margin of 37,000 votes.
How did people’s mandate overturn overwhelmingly in favour of the BJP?
To understand why the Congress lost Madhya Pradesh in May 2019, one has to see the larger context of the political history of the state.
The BJP got its first breakthrough in the state assembly elections when it came to power in 1990 under the chief Ministership of Sunder Lal Patwa. The party won 220 of the 320 seats; the Congress won 56. Sunder Lal Patwa had earlier served briefly as the CM in 1980 as part of the Janata Party. The Patwa government served between March 1990 and December 1992, before the state was placed under President’s rule.
However, from 2003 to 2018, Madhya Pradesh remained under BJP rule. During this period, the party established and expanded its grassroots cadre base across the state. People have largely connected to the Hindutva ideology backed by strong nationalism, as professed by the BJP and the RSS.
In 2019, the last minute BJP contestant Pragya Singh Thakur defeated Congress party veteran and two-time CM, Digvijay Singh, by a margin of 3,64,822 votes. The party has not lost the Bhopal seat since 1989. Pragya Thakur’s victory, despite some very controversial statements made by her, is a testimony to BJP’s strong support base in the city and the state.
BJP’s sweep across the state this year is an outcome of a strong cadre-based foundation which got a boost from the unbeatable persona of Narendra Modi. These elections were fought in his name, so when the voters had to choose for or against Modi, the choice was an easy one.
On its part, the Congress failed to develop its grassroots cadres during the time they were out of power. They relied only on anti-incumbency, with no better option at the centre. Its NYAY scheme could have been a game changer, but it came too late in the day for the message to reach the common man across the state. The failure can be attributed to a lack of clear policy and direction from the Congress party, absence of party network, and failure of Rahul Gandhi to present himself as a better option to Modi.
The defeat was a natural outcome. Now it remains to be seen how the drama will play out in the state’s legislature.
For Detailed Information Click on Madhya Pradesh Election Results 2019