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MP bypolls: Congress’ win in Kolaras, Mungaoli sets stage for assembly elections this year

The wins in Kolaras and Mungaoli show that Chouhan’s fortress in Madhya Pradesh can be breached, provided the faction-ridden Congress puts up a united fight.

india Updated: Mar 01, 2018 07:18 IST
Chetan Chauhan and Ranjan
Chetan Chauhan and Ranjan
Hindustan Times, New Delhi/Bhopal
MP bypolls,Madhya Pradesh,Shivraj Singh Chouhan
Congress workers celebrate the win in Kolaras and Mungaoli assembly by-elections at the party’s headquarters in Bhopal on Wednesday. (PTI Photo)

The Congress victory in the two by-polls in Madhya Pradesh will help the party to set a positive narrative for the assembly polls at the end of the year in which chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan will be seeking his fourth term.

The wins in Kolaras and Mungaoli, coming on the back of the Congress’ good performance in recent civil polls and victories in two assembly by-poll last year, show that Chouhan’s fortress in Madhya Pradesh can be breached, provided the faction-ridden Congress puts up a united fight. Although the Congress retained the two seats on Wednesday, the victory margin was much less than the last time.

In these by-polls, a united Congress successfully took on the much stronger BJP, like in Rajasthan, where the grand old party routed the ruling party in three by-polls — Ajmer and Alwar Lok Sabha and Mangalgarh assembly.

Facing strong anti-incumbency, Chouhan had camped in the two constituencies for a fortnight along with half his cabinet ministers. The CM addressed over 30 rallies and road shows, turning the contest into a prestige battle between him and the Congress face for the polls — Jyotiraditya Scindia.

Chouhan sought just “Five months” from people to bring development of five years in the two constituencies with a huge population of tribals and other backward classes (OBCs). To sway the voters, he also included three legislators from the OBC communities into his cabinet a month ago in addition to announcing sops for them.

Statistically, the BJP had an edge as a study by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies showed that in over 65% of the by-polls held since 1990s the ruling party candidate had won. But on the ground, the BJP lost to better campaigning by the Congress, which questioned the ruling party’s work in the last 15 years and its ‘apathy’ towards farmers, which clicked with the voters.

“It is defeat of Shivraj Singh Chouhan and the results clearly show anti-incumbency wave against the government,” said NK Singh, a Bhopal-based political analyst. “Recent results show that the BJP’s well-oiled election machinery is not working in Madhya Pradesh”.

Another analyst Girijashankar, who goes by his first name, however, blamed the arrogance of the state ministers for the debacle. “In Mungaoli and Kolaras, the voters didn’t like the arrogant behaviour of ministers which was reflected in the Election Commission’s warning to a minister and seeking explanation from another,” he said.

Chouhan told reporters that the BJP had put up a good fight in the by-polls. “We had lost these seats in 2013 assembly elections even when there was a BJP wave (in the state),” he said.

Though the Congress has set the narrative for 2018 assembly polls it has not been able to breach the BJP strongholds that can turn the tide in its favour. In fact, the party has failed to recover the ground lost to the BJP in tribal and backward areas in previous elections.

If the party wants to return to power after 15 years, it will have to work hard in these areas.

First Published: Mar 01, 2018 07:04 IST