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BJP Sweeps Madhya Pradesh: Why Did The Congress Fail To Make A Dent?

The BJP has appeared to shrug off any effects of anti-incumbency, despite ruling MP for 18 of the past 20 years. Here’s what worked in the favour of the saffron party in this election.

Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan greets supporters following BJPs lead in MP
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As the results of Madhya Pradesh have already given a clean sweep to the BJP, several factors are coming up across the political spheres. Ranging from Adivasi votes to the success of Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s Yojanas to the Scindia factor—region-wise analyses are telling different stories. The BJP has already crossed 165 seats, reducing Congress to 60 in the 230-seat Assembly.

While some analysts are of the opinion that Kamal Nath has failed to stand up to his mass leader image, the others feel that the Congress failed to reach out to the voters. Bhopal-based senior journalist Altamas Jalal says: “While Shivraj Singh Chouhan has a mass appeal in the state even after the efforts of the central leadership to undermine him; Kamal Nath couldn’t manage to build it.”

However, Zakariya Khan, a regional reporter from Seoni district of Mahakoshal region that also consists of Chhindwara—Nath’s own constituency—says: “Nath has remained to being Chhindwara’s chief minister.”

Besides failure of Nath to create a large impact across the state, Khan thinks it is the over confidence of the Congress party that ultimately worked against it. “The Congress couldn’t manage to take up their promises made to the people and it ended up becoming a social media party that does not have a presence on the ground,” he adds.

Prior to the election results, Abbas Hafeez Khan, the Congress spokesperson of Madhya Pradesh, said while talking to Outlook that whichever way the exit poll goes, the Congress would get more than 135 seats. In the first two rounds, nevertheless, it became clear that the party was losing badly across constituencies.

Scindia Factor Played a Big Role?

Few analysts feel the poor performance of the Congress in the Chambal-Gwalior region, that is believed to be a stronghold of the Scindias, worked against the grand-old party. Though prior to the elections, several Scindia-loyalists returned to the Congress—perhaps anticipating victory—the royal kin continued to have his hold in his bastion.

Notably, in 2022, the Congress, for the first time in 54 years, won the Gwalior municipality elections paving the way for the perception that the Scindia magic is over. However, in most of seats in the district, the BJP has swept over Congress. In the Chambal region as well, the BJP has a lead in more than 20 seats among 34.

The dissent within the BJP against Scindia didn’t work in the favour of the Congress, think political analysts. While in 2020 by-poll, his loyalists performed poorly and consequently, he couldn’t manage to get tickets even for his loyalist like Munnalal Goyal, this Assembly election gave him the required boost. “Scindia could even become the chief minister if the central leadership thought that people have a Chouhan-fatigue,” says Khan.

As the numbers started favouring the BJP, Scindia, while taking a jibe at Priyanka Gandhi, said: “Someone spoke about my height (but) people of Gwalior-Malwa have shown how tall they are.” Notably, in an interview with Outlook, Kamal Nath even said that it is their turn to teach the BJP a lesson in reference to Scindia’s defection in 2020 that toppled the 15-month-old Congress government.

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Schemes Of ‘Mama’

Most of the people Outlook spoke to are of the opinion that the schemes announced by Shivraj Singh Chouhan worked hugely in favour of the BJP. “Chouhan’s Ladli Bahen Yojana partially played the game,” says Jalal. He also adds that Ladli Laxmi Yojana and the promises of enhancing minimum support price of wheat and rice also favoured the saffron party.

The Congress too had announced several welfare schemes. Why didn’t they work? Virendra Singh Rathode, senior journalist from Western MP, says: “The BJP has put forth right counters for each and every Congress scheme. From subsidy in LPG, to the increase in MSP, the BJP found its ways.” Notably, Khan thinks that the Congress failed to promote its schemes during the campaigns.

“Even before the Ladli Bahen Yojana, the Congress thought of Nari Samman Yojana where they promised to give Rs 1,500 stipend per month to women, but they couldn’t promote it,” he notes. The health scheme of providing Rs 25 lakh insurance to the people proposed by the Congress party couldn’t find much water. “The Congress couldn’t campaign about it much in Madhya Pradesh,” says Jalal.

Failure of the Congress’ OBC Politics?

While the women voters became a major factor for ‘Mama’, the Congress party’s recent turn to support and uphold OBC politics could not have a traction among the voters. Though the Congress spokesperson of the state earlier said that the party is taking all the constituencies together, their focus on caste survey followed by OBC Mahasabha’s open support to Rahul Gandhi in Bhopal just before the elections revealed a different story.

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However, the results of Mahakoshal region where the OBC voters perceptibly have enough strength didn’t offer much peace to the grand-old party.

Adivasis ‘Taken for Granted’?

The only factor that the Congress thought would remain with them, even in the bad times, were the Adivasi votes. In 2018, the Congress won 31 out of 47 ST seats, catapulting the party to power. This time, the seat share of Congress has reduced drastically. Is it because that the Congress took Adivasi votes for granted?

“In the last 10 days of campaign, Congress did not at all look at the Adivasi constituencies whereas PM Modi did continuous rallies. Though the Adivasi voters supported the BJP in the last two decades, in 2018, they gave Congress a chance that they lost,” says Rathode.

While the BJP did not have any senior Adivasi leaders, the Congress had several big faces like Kantilal Bhuriya, Vikrant Bhuriya and Hiralal Alawa, to name a few. The lack of Adivasi leadership made the BJP field Union Minister of State for Rural Development and Steel, Faggan Singh Kulaste, a prominent Adivasi leader from Niwas. Notably, he lost by almost 10,000 margins.

Then, what are the factors that still favoured the BJP in Adivasi seats? A few analysts think that it is the BJP’s continuous effort to address Adivasis that changed the game.

On November 15—the birth anniversary of Adivasi legend Birsa Munda—Prime Minister Modi launched Vikas Bharat Sankalp Yatra that will run up to January 26. Coming just two days ahead of Madhya Pradesh polls, this Yatra meant to take the central schemes to the poor people, also became a launchpad for Pradhan Mantri Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups Development Mission. A project with a budget of Rs 24,000 crore, it seems to address the livelihood of 75 Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTG) residing in 18 states and UTs across 22,544 villages.

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Earlier, Chouhan implemented the Fifth Schedule across 89 tribal-dominated blocks and announced door-to-door ration delivery for the tribal families. If the free ration, Ladli Bahen Yojana, Ladli Laxmi Yojana and other farmer and women-oriented schemes addressed the material concerns of the Adivasis, renaming of railway stations and evocation of Adivasi leaders seemingly worked as culturally-inclusive projects.

In September, 2021, the Union Home Minister Amit Shah participated in a programme at Jabalpur to mark the martyrdom of tribal king Shankar Shah and his son Raghunath Shah. Following that, on November 15, PM Modi renamed the Habibgunj station to Rani Kamalapati station evoking the legacy of the Gond queen.

However, the Congress also tried to address the tribal concerns. Priyanka Gandhi herself during a rally promised that the party would implement the Sixth Schedule in tribal districts, if they come to power. She also promised to hike the price of tendu leaves. But someway or other, they fell short in the final lap, adds Rathode.

Against this backdrop, who will be the next CM? Will the BJP be able to sideline the leader on whose potency they gained the number that no party in the history of the state got alone? Jalal thinks that Chouhan will again be the “party’s man at least up to the Lok Sabha elections”. “However, after that, he might transfer the baton to Scindia to become the national president of the party,” he adds.

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