The BJP’s strategy of not turning the Maihar campaign into a high-profile one, unlike the Ratlam Lok Sabha bypoll in November where it lost, seems to have paid off.
Narayan Tripathi of the BJP won the by-election for Maihar assembly segment in Madhya Pradesh by 28,281 votes. Tripathi had earlier won the Maihar seat in 2013 assembly elections on a Congress ticket but had resigned from the party to join the BJP, necessitating the bypoll.
Victory a shot in the arm for Shivraj
The BJP’s victory at Maihar is a shot in the arm for chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, since a whisper campaign had begun taking root in the state BJP insinuating that Chouhan’s popularity was on the wane, as reflected in the party’s defeat in the Ratlam Lok Sabha by-election.
The BJP victory proved poll pundits wrong, who had all along been giving the Congress an upper hand in Maihar.
Sources in the BJP said a strategy was worked out to not make the campaign in Maihar a high-profile. In the post Ratlam defeat analysis, the party felt that by sending a large number of ministers and top leaders who moved around in the Ratlam campaign with all the trappings of power, the party had alienated the local people.
Only two ministers, Rajendra Shukla and Lal Singh Arya were permanently in Maihar in run up to the polls. Other ministers visited Maihar but did not stay there long enough.
“The Congress made the same mistake in Maihar. All top leaders were invited in a show of unity but it did not serve any purpose,” said political analyst Girija Shankar.
The Congress could also have erred in working out its electoral arithmetic.
“The Congress felt that the vote secured by Narayan Tripathi in 2013 elections was the Congress’ dedicated vote which along with vote secured by Manish Patel in 2013 would ensure victory for Congress. That did not happen,” said Shankar.
“In fact Narayan Tripathi could successfully take votes with him and also got the dedicated vote of BJP,” he said.
Cong was banking on Kurmi and Kushwaha community votes
The Congress was banking on the Kurmi and Kushwaha community votes, along with a sizeable section of the Scheduled Tribe and Scheduled Caste community votes, besides Thakur and Muslim votes as well.
Clearly, the SC community vote seems to have gone with the BJP along with the non-Kurmi, non-Kushwaha backward classes vote mainly from Yadav and Sahu community, helping the party romp home.
Both the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party candidates, Ramlakhan Singh and Ramniwas Urmalia, secured only 9,892 and 8,982 votes respectively, and did not serve their expected purpose for either the BJP or the Congress—cut into Kurmi and Brahmin votes.
Third defeat for Ajay Singh in Satna
This is a third defeat for Leader of opposition Ajay Singh in Satna- a district that lies in the area that was under the influence of his late father Arjun Singh’s. Ajay Singh lost the Satna Lok Sabha election in 2014, his candidate lost the Satna municipal corporation polls in the same year and now the defeat in Maihar.
The Congress’s Ajay Singh- who had attributed his defeat in Satna Lok Sabha elections in 2014 to Narayan Tripathi working against him- had declared Maihar as a prestige contest for himself.
BJP misused state machinery: Congress
Congress state president Arun Yadav accused the BJP of misusing the government machinery to win the by-election. Yadav accused the BJP-led government of deliberately giving below poverty line (BPL) status to 17,000 families just two days before the election notification.
The state Congress chief also accused the BJP of using the police force to “illegally” carry their election campaigning material, which was against the norms of the election commission. He also raised questions on the announcement of development projects worth Rs150 crore by the chief minister during his election campaign.