MP divided between BJP and Congress for the first time
The general election witnessed a clear polarisation between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress in Madhya Pradesh with all the 40 seats going to either party.
Since the 1957 election, this is the first time that all the seats in the state have been shared by the two parties. Of the 40 Lok Sabha seats in MP, the BJP won 30 this time while 10 went to the Congress.
In 1957, the Congress captured 26 of the 27 seats in the state, the lone one going to the Hindu Mahasabha. Since then, the seats have always been shared among more than two parties and Independents.
Several prominent Congress leaders of the state, including tribal leader Dalip Singh Bhuria, former Union minister Aslam Sher Khan and former state minister Akhand Pratap Singh deserted the party on election eve. However, no other Congress leader left after Sonia Gandhi decided to take part in the election campaign.
The Congress's battle cry was 'struggle against communalism', while the BJP highlighted local issues along with its plank of political stability, besides projecting its prime ministerial candidate Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Although the results have apparently been in the BJP's favour, the party has increased its tally by just three seats as compared to the 1996 election. The Congress increased its tally by two seats as compared to the last election.
Although the BJP polled 6.52 per cent votes more than the Congress this time, the percentage of votes secured by it increased by only 4.7 per cent as compared to the last election. On the other hand, the percentage of votes secured by the Congress increased by 8.5 per cent.
Accepting that the Congress could not win as many seats in the state as it had hoped, Chief Minister Digvijay Singh said the increase in the vote percentage indicated that the people had confidence in the party.
One reason for the Congress's poor show, Singh said, was that the BJP had projected Vajpayee as its prime ministerial candidate. The people voted for Vajpayee and not the BJP, the chief minister claimed.
However, other Congress leaders in the state hold different views on the party's dismal performance. Assembly speaker Sriniwas Tiwari said, "unequal and improper" distribution of party tickets was one of the major reasons for the Congress's poor showing.
Another senior Congress leader, former chief minister Shyama Charan Shukla, blamed the state government's policies for the defeat.
State Congress general secretary and party spokesman Manak Agarwal said the Congress failed to highlight the achievements of the Digvijay Singh government in a proper perspective. Many others held the internal bickerings responsible for the party's defeat in the state.
Although Sonia Gandhi's campaign boosted the morale of party workers, it did not help the Congress increase its tally.
Sonia addressed election meetings in 12 constituencies, but barring Chhindwara and Raigarh, Congress candidates could not win any of the other seats.
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