BJP hands crushing defeat to Congress in Madhya Pradesh
Bhopal: The Congress humiliation is complete. Madhya Pradesh joined the other heartland states in bowing to Modi brand of "nationalism" by handing all but one of the 29 Lok Sabha seats to BJP. Barring Chhindwara that returned the sole Congress candidate Nakul Nath, the BJP swept all including the Guna seat.
The Congress had won two seats of Chhindwara and Guna in 2014. In the next year's by-election Congress leader Kantilal Bhuria wrested back Ratlam-Jhabua seat to take the tally to three.
It will be the first time that Lok Sabha will be without a member from the Scindia family from erstwhile Gwalior state. Even more humiliating for the Scindias is the defeat of a scion at the hands of former humble worker of the Congress and old fan of Jyotiraditya Scindia, Krishnapal Yadav.
Scindia was projected a popular choice as a youthful Chief ministerial candidate in the run-up to the assembly elections last year. He failed to vindicate that tag. Kantilal Bhuria the former union minister who had won a by-election in 2015 raise the Congress tally to 3 out 29 seems to have lost hold on the constituency. This would be Bhuria's second defeat of the career.
Kamal Nath who retained the PCC chief's post even after becoming the chief minister is now being accused of focusing on personal interest. Kamal Nath now makes a debut in the assembly. But the BJP is already baying for his blood. The state BJP chief who just retained his Jabalpur Lok Sabha seat has already demanded Kamal Nath's resignation on moral grounds.
There are murmurs within the Congress too on why Kamal Nath was allowed to retain two posts. But given the frictions in the Congress, it would be hard to believe the results would be any different particularly after the Modi undercurrent swept all states.
Chhindwara had remained loyal to the Congress bastion even during the earlier sweep that was witnessed 42 years ago. In the elections held in 1977 to mark the end of the Emergency, the undivided Madhya Pradesh had returned 39 Bharatiya Jan Sangh (BJS) candidates while Congress had to be content with only Chhindwara. The winner for the Congress in that poll was Gargi Shankar Mishra.
After the carving out of Chhattisgarh, which got 11 of the 40 seats from the mother-state, the sole Madhya Pradesh seat going to Congress out of 29 is Chhindwara. With an improved performance over 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP has tossed up quite a few questions about the Congress' strategy and its execution in Madhya Pradesh. Nakul, son of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath has defeated his BJP rival Nattanshah Kawreti in Chhindwara.
The Congress owes its supporters an explanation for frittering away in less than six months the advantage of returning to power after 15 years. Chief Minister Kamal Nath showed a lot of restraint to turn an unruly organisation into a fighting unit. But he has apparently fallen short of expectations in an election that was fought on emotive issues rather than political logic and public issues. The current election will be remembered for polarisation, acrimony and unprecedented tension.
The complete failure of Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi to make an impact in the state may have surprised even the BJP supporters. Rahul Gandhi had made seven trips to the state and Priyanka one over the past two months.
The Congress had many chinks in its armour. It was said the Congress had won the assembly elections in spite of itself because factionalism was rampant when it squared up against a considerably weakened BJP -- thanks to Shivraj Singh's inept third stint.
Now the even the ruling party members privately concede the Congress markedly benefited from the BJP's incumbency. Many faces of the BJP had put off the voter. The strategy to replace most of the old hands, including some sitting MPs, seems to have worked wonders for the BJP. But many pollsters say the candidates of the party did not matter this time around. It was just brand Modi that counted.