Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh: The Hindi heartland hasn’t seen a more intense race in recent times, with both the Congress and the BJP racing neck and neck to claim Madhya Pradesh. This see-saw game continued through the day with both parties alternately claiming the lead, until Congress pulled ahead around 6 pm, leading in 115 out of 130 seats compared to out of 230 seats, against BJP’s 106 seats. This, in comparison to 2013, when the ruling party won 165 seats, and the Congress scraped by with a measly 58 seats.
Rahul Gandhi's attempts to wrest the narrative ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls seem to be working. To avoid another Goa-like situation, the Congress' senior leadership tried to woo smaller parties such as the Gondwana Gantantra Party, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party and keep its prospects of forming the government alive. Mayawati’s BSP, which won two seats (as of 6 pm), rushed its MLAs to Delhi. Pre-election, she'd declared that her party would not align with BJP or Congress.
Smaller parties such as BSP won two and GPP and SP won one each. NOTA (None of The Above) option was chosen by approximately 1.5 lakh voters, more than what AAP and SP polled. While some victories were expected, others couldn’t be predicted. BJP’s sole Muslim candidate Fatima Siddiqui, from Bhopal (North), lost to veteran Congress leader, Arif Aqueel, who received 89,902 votes. The Gondwana Gantantra Party exceeded expectations by winning three seats: Beohari, Amarwada and Junnardeo.
Congress’ move to field former Jay Adivasi Yuva Shakti (JAYS) leader Hiralal Alawa, as their candidate from Manawar seat paid off, as he won by a significant margin of 27,792 votes against BJP’s Ranjana Baghel. For all the noise created over the past few months by upper-caste outfit Samanya Pichra Alpsankhyak Kalyan Samaj (SAPAKS), it failed to win even a single seat. After boasting that they would contest all 230 seats, pundits predicted that the outfit would considerably eat into the BJP’s vote share by stealing the upper caste youth vote.
Mandsaur was a surprise, with memories of the fatal 2016 shootings refusing to fade from public memory. However, BJP leader Yashpal Singh Sisodiya won by a margin of 17,212 votes against Congress’ Narendra Nahata. Several efforts seemingly plagued the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh. A strong anti-incumbency narrative surfaced due to Chouhan’s abysmal record in generating jobs, improving health and education sectors and infrastructure such as roads, water and electricity. However, the former chief minister won Budhni in a one-sided competition against Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee leader Arun Yadav by a margin of 46,393 votes.
Aggressive campaigning by Rahul, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Kamal Nath seems to have worked across the state: as of 5 pm, the grand old party recorded massive wins in Malwa Tribal, Mahakoshal and Chambal regions, and just about missed the mark in Bundelkhand. Malwa, non-tribal and Vindhya Pradesh regions saw BJP wins. Vyapam whisteblower Dr Anand Rai, who played a crucial role in forming the alliance between JAYS and Congress, claimed, “This time, as per the results, tribal voters supported Congress, which helped the grand old party make a comeback.”
Rai, who actively participated in Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections, opined that many things went wrong for Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led BJP government. “First of all, unemployment is the biggest issue, which government could not resolve. Apart from that, the issue of women's safety, the fact that rape cases are on rise, and the agrarian crisis. Corruption, including Vyapam scam, e-tendering scam, dumper scam and many more were factors that dented the BJP," he said.
Social activist and Narmada Bachao Andolan founder Medha Patkar said, “The BJP indulged in sloganeering, and making false promises. Corruption is on the rise,” she said, adding that poor implementation of Goods and Services Tax, demonetisation and schemes such as Fasal Bima Yojana and Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana caused citizens a lot of suffering, which is why people turned against the ruling party.
Congress workers’ celebrations started early afternoon in Dindori, Bhopal, and even at the AICC office in New Delhi. Madhya Pradesh election is pivotal for both the Congress and BJP. The Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led BJP government is eyeing a fourth consecutive term, which will give the party an edge heading into the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. For the Congress, Madhya Pradesh is essential in establishing Rahul as a serious candidate for prime minister, and help take back what is essentially a saffron region of the country.
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Updated Date: Dec 11, 2018 21:08:44 IST