In the recently concluded by-election for the Maheshwar (SC) Assembly seat in Madhya Pradesh, BJP candidate Raj Kumar Mev thrashed his Congress opponent Devendra Sadho by a record margin of 31,766 votes. This election result is important in more ways than one. For Raj Kumar Mev, the victory represents a change in personal fortunes. In the 2008 Assembly election, Mev lost the seat to Dr. Vijay Laxmi Sadho by more than 600 votes. Three and a half years later, Mev has crossed swords with her brother and emerged triumphant. The Maheshwar Assembly seat has been a traditional Congress bastion. Sitaram Sadho and later Vijay Laxmi Sadho had won 9 out of the last 13 elections from this constituency. The margin of the Mev’s victory indicates a decisive shift in voter preference away from the Congress and towards the BJP. It is likely that this trend will continue beyond this election. After all, a margin in excess of 31,000 votes will not swing away in a flash especially with a party with a sound organisational base such as the BJP.
Maheshwar now joins the club of Assembly constituencies including Sonkatch, Kukshi and Jabera which the Congress initially won in 2008 but have lost in various by-elections since. When a party which has been in government for more than eight years not only defies anti-incumbency but also picks up seats in Opposition territory, it is clear testimony to the quality of good governance being provided by the Shivraj Singh Chouhan State government as well as to the grass roots connections of the Madhya Pradesh BJP unit headed by Prabhat Jha.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha election, it will be remembered that the state of Madhya Pradesh which was considered to be a reasonably safe state for the BJP threw up a surprise when it elected only 16 BJP MPs (as opposed to 25 in 2004) and 12 Congress MPs (as opposed to 4 in 2004). Even at that time, the BJP candidate for the Khargone Lok Sabha seat won the Maheshwar Assembly segment by just over 4,000 votes. The current victory margin of more than 31,000 votes demonstrates a significant power shift in the constituency.
Alliances have become fluid in the current polity. The primary battle will continue to remain between the two national parties viz. the BJP and the Congress. Under such circumstances, the only hope for a reversal of the 2009 trend is for the BJP to outperform the Congress in states where there is a direct contest between these two parties. GVL Narasimha Rao identifies these states as Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.