A personal setback
Despite Modi and Shah’s efforts, BJP could not prevent Madhya Pradesh from falling into Congress’s lap
Despite the voters failing to give a clear majority, Congress has put together the numbers to form the government in Madhya Pradesh with the support of BSP and independents. And this is a huge setback to BJP, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah, who held marathon public meetings during the election campaign. But they proved to be unequal to the task as BJP fell short of a majority. The slogan given by BJP for 2018 Assembly elections was 'Abki Baar 200 Paar' but it proved to be a 'Mission Impossible'.
PM Modi had addressed a public meeting in Vidisha but the BJP candidate there could not win the seat, which was held by the party for the past 46 years. Similarly, Modi and Shah held rallies and public meetings in Indore, but it was not enough to secure victory for the BJP candidate in Indore-1. The once invincible duo could not stop two Assembly constituencies in Jabalpur falling in Congress's lap.
After PM Modi, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath was the star campaigner, who missed no opportunity to make controversial statements. Yogi was busy trying to polarise the polls in favour of BJP but the results proved otherwise. In fact, in all the states where Yogi campaigned, the party slipped. He participated in six rallies in Chhattisgarh, nine rallies in Madhya Pradesh and 11 in Rajasthan. All the three states were lost to BJP. He spent more than 20 days away from UP.
The most interesting feature of the result is that barring Vindhya Pradesh, BJP failed to get a majority in all the regions. For example, Gwalior-Chambal region has a total 31 seats, out of which BJP had won 21 and Congress nine in 2013. But this time Congress won 24 and BJP 6.
The Malwa-Nimar region has always been considered a stronghold of the BJP. In 2013 it won 57 out of the 66 seats and Congress had to manage with 9. But this time BJP could retain only 28 seats, with the Congress tally going up to 35.
The central region has a total of 36 seats. In the last election Congress won 6 but this time it registered a victory in 13 seats. The BJP tally came down from 30 to 23. In Bundelkhand region in 2013 BJP had 21 seats and Congress had 8. But this time BJP won 18 and Congress 10. As for Mahakaushal, the total number of seats is 38. In 2013 BJP won 25 and Congress 13 but in the latest election, BJP has been reduced to 11 while Congress bagged 24.
Vindhya region is the only one where BJP won the majority of seats. In fact, it won more seats than it did in 2013. In the outgoing assembly, BJP had 17 out of total 30 and now it has 25. The Congress tally came down to 6 from 11 in 2013. Among the losers is Rahul Singh, who is the leader of the opposition, from Churhat, a Congress bastion since the time of Arjun Singh. Rahul Singh is Arjun Singh's son.
Congress was hoping to win more seats in Vindhya region this time. But it received a jolt as it could not even retain those seats which it had won earlier. This was the only region where BJP increased its tally.
The party could not retain its seats like Gudh, Mauganj, Beohari and Nagod, and could secure only one constituency each in districts like Rewa, Sidhi and Singrauli. It could only win seats in districts like Satna and Shahdol, while it wrested Satna and Annupur from BJP. Interestingly, Congress president Rahul Gandhi had participated in multiple roadshows in this region. Modi participated in two meetings in Rewa and Shahdol districts, which helped BJP, according to sources. Besides losing the majority, BJP suffered a major setback when 13 ministers out of the 31 member Chouhan cabinet lost. They include Archana Chitnis, Umashankar Gupta, Antar Singh Arya, Jai Bhan Singh Pawaiya, Lal Singh Arya, Rustam Singh, Deepak Joshi, Narayan Singh Kushwaha and Om Prakash Dhurve. From the Congress side, important losers are former Union minister Suresh Pachauri, Deputy Speaker Rajendra Singh, and leader of opposition Rahul Singh.
Till late night on Tuesday, the state stared at a hung Assembly after none of the two major political parties could get a majority. But in a strategic move, the Congress party staked claim to form its government with the support of independents, even before the results were officially declared by the Election Commission.
State Congress president Kamal Nath sent a letter to Governor Anandiben Patel late night saying "the Congress party has emerged as a single largest party with majority support as all the independents have in addition assured support to the Congress party". The letter was mailed to the Raj Bhawan and a hard copy was delivered by hand by Congress spokesperson JP Dhanopia.
Congress acted swiftly to avoid a replay of Goa or Karnataka elections. In Goa, Congress had failed to form the government despite being the single largest party in 2017.
Throughout Tuesday, the lead for both parties swung like a pendulum and emotions were racing as it happens in a T-20 cricket match. Both the parties till late night were short of the magic figure of 116 seats, with the Congress ahead of BJP.
EVMs are continuously proving to be a major embarrassment for the Election Commission. Eleven machines were found 'not clear' (after the mock poll) when they were opened on the day of counting. Earlier, 20 more machines were reported to have erred, which brings the overall count of erring EVMs to 175 located in 65 seats spread across 21 districts.
(The views expressed are strictly personal)