Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has not lost much in the defeat to Congress on Bahoriband assembly seat as far as its overall standing in Madhya Pradesh is concerned. But the result has given rise to the question whether it is not a pointer to the waning of chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s popularity.
The defeat is significant on several counts. Of the three seats on which by-poll was held, the BJP was confident of a victory in Bahoriband the most, having won it by a big margin of 21,000 votes in 2013 assembly elections.
It hoped the sympathy factor would work for its candidate Pranay Pandey, whose father Prabhat Pandey’s death had necessitated the by-poll. It didn’t and Pranay lost to Congress’ Saurabh Singh by a margin of 7,977 votes.
The BJP also did not gain from the defection of two-time MLA Nishith Patel from Congress, after he was denied a ticket, as well as the support extended by former JD(U) leader Shankar Mahto.
Besides, hardly any leader of repute campaigned for the Congress candidate. In comparison, Chouhan, Union minister Narendra Singh Tomar and more than a dozen state ministers canvassed for the BJP candidates.
BJP was also expected to retain all three seats—Agar, Bahoriband and Vijayraghogarh—given the advantage handed to it by the spectacular win in Lok Sabha elections three months ago.
Since these by-polls were being perceived as a vote on the impact of Congress’ attacks on Chouhan for his handling of the massive examination and recruitment scam, Bahoriband defeat will resonate in its future electoral battles.
The BJP won Agar seat where the Congress had fielded a very weak candidate in Rajkumar Gore. On Vijayraghogarh, it had fielded hugely popular former Congress MLA Sanjay Pathak.
"The BJP should think if the defeat in Bahoriband is a preliminary sign of erosion of the popularity enjoyed by the chief minister. The ruling party has an advantage in by-elections that was lost in Bahoriband," said political analyst Girija Shankar.
Another reason for the defeat, Shankar said, was the hasty manner in which the local administration booked the Congress candidate in an abduction case. It had to face embarrassment when the real abductors surrendered.