Bhopal: It’s a shot in the arm for the Bharatiya Janata Party and it comes from the place that counts most in a democracy, the voters. Despite the lengthening shadows of the multi-crore Vyapam scam, the ruling saffron party in Madhya Pradesh comfortably demolished the main opposition Congress in the state’s civic body polls, the results of which were announced on August 16. With its latest victory, the Bharatiya Janata Party has succeeded in almost rooting out the Congress from three levels—Lok Sabha, Assembly and Municipal Corporation/ civic bodies—of electoral politics in the state.
Sunday’s impressive victory has also come as major relief to Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who has been under constant pressure due to the opposition’s demand for his resignation over Vyapam. The results are likely to support and strengthen Chouhan, allowing him to fend off Opposition pressure over his continuation as CM.
After being made Chief Minister in November 2005, Chouhan, without wasting any time, projected himself as the party’s poster-boy and started reaching out to the people through his yatras. In the absence of a Congress leader to take him on, Chouhan used his oratory to denounce the Opposition for blocking the state’s economic progress and led his party to emphatic wins in the 2008 and 2013 Assembly elections as well as the 2009 and 2014 parliamentary elections in MP.
He even managed to increase the BJP’s seat share in the 2013 Assembly elections when the ruling party won 165 of the 230 assembly seats, routing the Congress, which was reduced to 58 seats—considerably less than its total of 72 in the outgoing assembly. Similarly, the BJP won 27 of the state’s 29 parliamentary seats in the 2014 parliamentary elections and now has completed the circle by its unprecedented victory in all 16 municipal corporations of the state.
“This is the first time in history that BJP has won all the 16 corporations in the state. We owe this success to the people,” a triumphant Chouhan said. “The state is moving rapidly on the path of development and progress. There
is no scope for negative politics and the Congress must realise that the politics of baseless allegations and ill-willed attempts of defaming will not work.”
Chouhan’s strategy in all the elections he has won so far is simple: Defuse the strong anti-incumbency wave by targeting the weak Congress, which has consistently failed to put up a collective battle as it is divided into factions led by Digvijaya Singh, Kamal Nath, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Suresh Pachouri, Meenakshi Natrajan and former Member of Parliament Sajan Singh Verma. The BJP has repeatedly made its mark as Congress leaders are unable to put up a united front before the electorate.
Madhya Pradesh may lie at the geographical centre of India but Chouhan knows the state neither influences, nor is influenced by, the winds of national politics. The Vyapam scam might well have come to the centre-stage nationally and played its role in the disruption of the recent Parliament session but the state’s voters do not seem to have been overly affected by that.
People in Madhya Pradesh are upset with corruption in the government machinery and reports of public representatives amassing huge wealth. But in a scenario where there is no space for a third front and where a divided and discredited Congress can hardly be seen as an alternative to the BJP, the 57-year-old Chouhan continues comfortably to rule the roost.