BHOPAL: The ruling BJP’s defeat in the Chitrakoot assembly bye-elections in the Vindhya Pradesh region of Madhya Pradesh may or may not be indicative of a change in the popular mood but it is definitely a warning bell for the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government, which has to face the electorate in end-2018, when the state would elect its new government.
This is the second consecutive electoral defeat for the BJP. In April this year, the party had lost the Ater assembly bye-polls. However, to be fair to the party, both the constituencies were won by the Congress in the 2013 assembly polls and are its bastions of yore.
The Chitrakoot bye-polls were necessitated by the death of Congress MLA Prem Singh. Congress’ Nilanshu Chaturvedi emerged victorious with a margin of 14,133 votes, upping its victory margin from 10,970 votes in the 2013 assembly polls.
What makes the Chitrakoot outcome a big jolt for the BJP is the fact that chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the party’s mascot and its vote-gatherer-in-chief in the state, had stayed put in the constituency for three days, addressing over 60 public meetings. The party had deployed half-a-dozen ministers and more than a dozen MLAs for the campaigning. And it had brought in campaigners even from Uttar Pradesh, bordering Chitrakoot. UP deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya had addressed a string of public meetings in the constituency.
However, all its efforts were in vain. The BJP polled lesser votes than the Congress even in a village called Kurra, where the chief minister had stayed for the night at a tribal home. The BJP candidate lost in his own village as well as the village of his in-laws.
Chitrakoot was the first election in the state after the peasant movement, which had taken the state by storm in July this year. Five farmers had lost their lives in police firing in Mandsaur. The BJP’s defeat is being seen as a pointer to the continuing resentment against the government among the farming community.
Legend has it that during his exile, Lord Rama had spent almost 12 years in the forests of Chitrakoot with Sita and Laxman. The Congress feels that the Chitrakoot win signals the end of its 14-year-long exile from power in the state.
After the bye-poll victory, jubilant Congress workers raised slogans invoking the name of Ram. One of them said “BJP ke lag gaye kam, jai shri Ram, jai shri Ram (the BJP has lost, Jai Shri Ram)”.”Lord Ram helps the honest and upright, not the corrupt,” state PCC chief Arun Yadav said.
The poll outcome has added a few inches to the political stature of Ajay Singh, leader of Opposition in the state assembly, who was the party’s chief strategist and campaigner in the elections. It may enable Singh to join the race for being projected as the Congress’ chief ministerial face in the assembly elections – the race in which, till now, only Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia were being considered the chief contenders
State BJP chief Nandkumar Singh Chouhan sought to underplay the importance of the poll outcome. “Chitrakoot does not reflect the mood of the entire state. We did expect to win. However, we have lost and now we will review the poll outcome and find out the causes behind our defeat,” he said.
Whatever the BJP chief may say, the fact remains that the government schemes, which were the mainstay of the BJP’s poll plank, failed to impress, much less benefit, the electorate. During the campaigning, the Congress repeatedly reminded the voters that the announcements made by the chief minister in Chitrakoot nine years ago still remain just that – announcements.
The state BJP leadership has been under the illusion that Shivraj Singh Chouhan has some kind of a magic wand which can help it win any election. However, Chitrakoot should serve as a grim reminder to the party that the Shivraj wand is waning at a rapid pace.
Two more assembly seats in the state are lying vacant. Both of them – Mungaoli and Kolaras – are in the zone of the influence of Jyotiraditya Scindia and annexing them would be an uphill task for the BJP.
Sources say that the government and the BJP are trying their best to persuade the Election Commission not to announce bye-polls in the two constituencies taking the plea that assembly elections in the state are only a year away. They are quoting section 151(A) of the Representation of the People Act 1951, which lays down the time limit for filling vacancies and states that “A by-election for filling any vacancy…shall be held within a period of six months from the date of the occurrence of the vacancy, provided that nothing contained in this section shall apply if: (a) The remainder of the term of a member in relation to a vacancy is less than one year; or (b) the Election Commission in consultation with the Central Government certifies that it is difficult to hold the by-election within the said period.”
The BJP knows pretty well that if it loses both the bye-polls – as it apprehends it would - it will do immense damage to its image and boost the morale of the Congress to no end. (IPA Service)