BJP regains lost bastion in Gwalior-Chambal belt in MP bypolls

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Madhya Pradesh regained its lost bastions in the Gwalior-Chambal and the Malwa region in particular which kept the party away from power in the state assembly elections two years back, per votes polled by the party candidates in the bypolls held in 28 assembly constituencies.

The bypoll results which were declared on Tuesday gave 19 of the 28 seats to the BJP and 9 to the Congress. Contrast it with the 2018 assembly elections, where the BJP could win just one of these seats.

In the bypolls, the BJP won 9 seats out of 16 in the Gwalior-Chambal region while it made almost a clean sweep in the Malwa region where it won six of the seven seats. It won the remaining four seats in central MP, Bundelkhand and Vindhya regions.

There was a huge difference in the poll percentage of the two parties. While the BJP got 49.46% votes polled, the Congress’ was almost 9% percentage points less than that of the BJP at 40.50%.

The vote percentage of the BJP in the 2018 assembly elections was 41.33% which was almost equal to the poll percentage of the Congress (41.35) but voters’ mood in the two regions in particular denied the former a fourth consecutive term in power in the state.

In the Gwalior-Chambal region which has 34 assembly seats, the Congress won as many as 26 in 2018 whereas the BJP, which had won 20 seats in 2013, had to be content with just 7 seats. Similarly, in the Malwa-Nimad region which has 66 seats and was supposed to be the saffron brigade’s strong bastion, the BJP’s strength was reduced to 28 seats in 2018 from 56 seats in 2013 assembly polls whereas the Congress got 35 seats in the region in 2018. It had won just 9 seats in the 2013 assembly polls.

Political analyst Jayant Singh Tomar said, “The BJP’s debacle in the Gwalior-Chambal region in 2018 could be attributed to a major factor i.e. ‘My ka laal’ speech delivered by Chouhan in a meeting of SC/ST government employees in 2016 besides Congress’ promise for farmers’ loan waiver ahead of the polls. Chouhan had said no one could snatch reservation from them (SC/ST).

“In the caste-ridden politics of the region, the speech deeply hurt sentiments of upper castes, traditionally BJP voters, who moved away. But in the past two years, anger in public dissipated and what overshadowed Chouhan’s speech was the Congress’ failure on the governance front in its 15 months rule.”

He said, “Another major factor which gave an edge to the BJP in the bypolls in the region was having on its side senior leader Jyotiraditya Scindia. Congress hardly had any leader in the region who could match the appeal and stature of Scindia. All these factors coupled with Congress’ failure in stitching a pre-poll alliance with smaller parties gave a chance to the BJP to regain its lost bastion in the region.”

Political analyst Girija Shankar said, “Having made inroads in the BJP’s bastion in 2018 the Congress was expected to work on its gains in the two regions in particular to strengthen its base but the Kamal Nath government wasted its entire time of 15 months in power while being oblivious of the fact that BJP has a tremendous strength under the leadership of chief minister Shviraj Singh Chouhan to make a comeback anytime to regain its lost bastions.”

The Congress alleged that the polls were not held in a “free and fair atmosphere”.

State Congress spokesperson Bhupendra Gupta said, “It’s difficult to say if the BJP regained its lost bastions. For, bypolls were not held in a free and fair atmosphere. There was massive misuse of government machinery and the BJP in power used all the tactics to ensure its victory. But despite all these manipulations, Congress won 9 of the seats which shows people were angry with the BJP government and they didn’t vote for the BJP.”

State BJP leader Dr Hitesh Bajpai said, “Bypolls gave an opportunity to voters to undo what they had done in the 2018 assembly elections by giving slightly more seats to the Congress then. The bypolls have proved that the BJP continues to retain its base in the state on the strength of its policies and its leadership at the Centre and in the state. This will continue in the next assembly elections too.”

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