Madhya Pradesh has thrown the most nail-biting finish in the recently held Assembly elections. Till the last moment, no one was clear about the outcome and finally with lower percentage of vote-share Congress managed to bag 114 seats in the 230 member Assembly while after 15 years of anti-incumbency the BJP under the leadership of popular face of Shivraj Singh Chouhan managed to bag 109 seats. The fractured mandate with two main players, allowed Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party to with minor players to bargain with the Congress. Till 2019, this uneasy arrangement will unfold the larger scene for the General Elections.
Shri Shivraj Singh Chouhan speaking to the media after submitting his resignation
This is certainly a matter of consolation at the same time concern for the BJP. Consolation because the BJP has a given a dignified fight in the defeat but compare to other States, if there was a region where BJP was confident about retaining the power for the fourth term, it was Madhya Pradesh. There were reasons for the same. As explained by the CSDS paper on Electoral Politics in Madhya Pradesh, the MP is one of the states, next to Gujarat, where the BJP is not only a strong party, but a key player with capacity to define the nature of politics in the state. In the aftermath of the fall of the Congress nationally, there are not many states where the dominance of one single party has been shaping so clearly. In MP, the Congress is not only kept out of power, but the BJP has also established its domination beyond electoral politics. It has also been able to spread its support base across social sections”. Right from the days of stalwarts like Kushabhau Thakare, Kailash Joshi, Sundarlal Patwa, Vijayaraje Scindia, etc the State has been a strong Jan-Sangh and BJP bastion from organisational point of view. Despite being the agrarian State, contrary to the popular perception BJP consolidated the position across the social sections. Congress after a long time sidelined Digvijay Singh whose rule has had a negative memories and tried to present a unified front with Kamal Nath as the President and Jyotiraditya Scindia as the campaign head. This seems to have worked on the ground for the grand old party.
As the election result suggests, the popularity of Shivraj Singh Chouhan is still intact and has ability to change the fortunes. The BJP is still ahead with 41 per cent vote-share and 1 crore 56 lac total number of votes polled. What is the real reason of worry for the BJP?
The losses incurred to BJP in the strongholds of Mahakaushal and Malwa Non-tribal is the sign of losing the core votes. Here the narrative around ‘Reservation’ seems to have given the dent from both the sides to the party. The narratives of agrarian crisis given and the party being anti SC/ST are successfully spread by the Congress among the rural masses. How BJP deals with this challenge of perception battle before the General elections to save the bastion, only time will tell.