MP by-poll results to decide fate of 7-month-old BJP govt and its 12 ministers
While the exit polls predict an edge to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over the Congress in by-polls held in 28 legislative assembly constituencies, the counting of votes on Tuesday will decide the fate of the 7-month-old BJP government and also of 12 of its ministers whose existence in Shivraj Singh Chouhan cabinet, if BJP retains power, depends on their winning the by-polls.
The by-polls results assume much significance for two ex-ministers too- Govind Singh Rajput and Tulsi Silavat, who filed their nomination papers as ministers but had to exit the cabinet on October 20 during the election campaign as per the constitutional provision that debars a person from holding a minister’s post for more than six months without being a member in the legislative assembly.
All these ministers and ex-ministers were among the 22 Congress MLAs, all loyalists of senior BJP leader and Rajya Sabha member Jyotiraditya Scindia, who resigned from the state assembly on March 10 this year, leading to the fall of the then Congress government and BJP regaining power after a gap of 15 months. Three more Congress MLAs resigned in July from the state assembly.
All these ex-MLAs joined the BJP and got the party tickets to contest the by-polls from their respective constituencies.
The ministers whose fate hangs in the balance include cabinet ministers Mahendra Singh Sisodia, Aidal Singh Kansana, Pradyumn Singh Tomar, Imrati Devi, Prabhuram Chaudhary, Bisahu Lal Singh, Rajvardhan Singh and Hardeep Singh Dang; and ministers of state Girraj Dandotia, OPS Bhadoria, Suresh Dhakad and Brijendra Yadav. They were inducted in the state cabinet on July 2.
As per the chief electoral officer’s office in Madhya Pradesh, counting of votes will begin at 8 am at 19 district headquarters which witnessed the by-polls, necessitated by the resignations of 25 Congress MLAs from the state assembly and due to the demise of three sitting MLAs. Of the 28 seats, Congress had won 27 in the 2018 assembly elections.
Chouhan government with 107 MLAs in the state assembly needs to win a minimum of 8 seats in the state assembly to retain power without any outside support and reach the majority mark of 115 in the 230-member state assembly which has one vacant seat, whereas Congress with 87 MLAs needs to win all the 28 seats to get to the half-way mark and regain power on its own.
However, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which has two MLAs and the Samajwadi Party (SP), with its lone MLA in the state assembly, are eyeing the prospects of a hung assembly to play the role of kingmaker as these parties did in 2018 when Congress fell short of the majority mark by two seats and had to seek support from non-BJP and independent MLAs to form the government which lasted for 15 months.
There are four independents, two BSP and one SP MLAs in the House. The BSP in particular enjoys a significant presence in Gwalior-Chambal region which has 16 of these 28 seats that voted in the by-polls. Though the BSP won just one seat in Gwalior-Chambal region in 2018 assembly elections, its presence led to a triangular contest on many of the seats. Of the 16 seats in the region, BSP had finished second on three seats and came third on 11 seats in 2018.
While BSP fielded its candidates on all the 28 seats, SP contested on 14 seats during the by-polls, but two of the SP candidates joined the rival parties- Congress and BJP during the election campaign.
On the eve of counting, state Congress president Kamal Nath exuded confidence of winning the by-polls and forming the government in the state by dislodging the BJP from power.
“The by-polls results are about to come. This election was of people, which was fought by the people and the victory too will be of people and truth. Congress will sweep the by-polls to form its democratic government elected by people once again and a government formed with manipulations will be brought down,” Nath said in a tweet.
However, state BJP president Vishnu Dutt Sharma said, “The BJP is going to achieve a massive victory. This is reflected in absurd statements from Congress leaders who are levelling baseless allegations against the BJP.”
State BSP president Ramakant Pippal, however, said, “We see a hung assembly despite all the manipulations by the ruling BJP and the Opposition Congress against the BSP during the polling. In that scenario our party president Behan Mayawati will take a decision on our support to any party on formation of the new government.”
Samajwadi Party state spokesperson Yash Bharatiya said, “We believe we can win two to three seats easily and if there is a hung assembly, then our party’s national president Akhilesh Yadav will take a decision on the issue of support.”
The by-polls were preceded by a bitter election campaign and personal attacks by BJP and Congress leaders against each other, which led to Election Commission snatching the star campaigner status from state Congress president Kamal Nath over his “Kya item hai ye” remark that he made against BJP candidate and woman and child development minister Imrati Devi. The Supreme Court later granted stay on execution of the Commission’s order but till then the campaign was over.
The commission also debarred higher education minister Mohan Yadav and women development minister Imrati Devi from holding and addressing any public meeting for a day. Similarly, it warned BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya and BJP candidate from Anuppur constituency, Bisahulal Singh, while it issued notices to BJP candidate Girraj Dandotia, BJP MLA Usha Thakur and Congress leaders Sajjan Singh Verma and Acharya Pramod Krishnan on complaints that they used objectionable remarks during their election meetings.
It was during the campaign that MP high court, Gwalior bench, in its interim order dated October 20 expressed its displeasure over the conduct of politicians in context of Covid situation in the state and banned physical public meetings subject to the availability of virtual campaign in nine districts under its jurisdiction, which included eight districts in Gwalior-Chambal region. The Supreme Court later granted stay on the execution of the order. Through its earlier interim order, the high court ordered lodging of FIR against union minister Narendra Singh Tomar and state Congress president Kamal Nath for violations of Covid-19 protocol.
70.27% polling was registered in the 28 assembly constituencies. The polling was marred by violence in certain pockets of Chambal division in particular, resulting in bullet injuries to at least three persons. In the 2018 assembly elections, these 28 seats had registered 73.39% polling.