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'If Scindia were to be made CM...'

By PRASANNA D ZORE
December 04, 2023 08:59 IST
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'...the Congress tally in 2028 would further plummet under 50.'
'A fresh face as CM would further strengthen the BJP and weaken the Congress in Madhya Pradesh.'

IMAGE: Bharatiya Janata Party leaders Jyotiraditya Scindia and Shivraj Singh Chouhan celebrate the BJP's triumph in the state assembly elections in Bhopal on Sunday, December 4, 2023. Photograph: ANI Photo
 

Dr Virendra Chawre, Assistant Professor, School of Studies in Political Science and Public Administration, Vikram University, Ujjain, does a quick dissection with Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com of the reasons behind the Bharatiya Janata Party's triumph in Madhya Pradesh.

There is no anti-incumbency against four-time Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

Shivraj Singh Chouhan's policies have won the day for him. Schemes like Ladli Behna, Ladli Laxmi have made him popular with women voters in Madhya Pradesh.

The Congress too made similar promises, but then Chouhan had the advantage of being the incumbent, in the sense, that he could implement policy decisions made during his five years at office.

In villages, his scheme of offering Rs 1,000 to women has enormously helped the BJP win the support of the rural masses.

The BJP really worked hard at the ground level soon after the surveys four months ago predicted a huge edge for the Congress in the state.

The credit must also go to the BJP's grassroots organisations which never disconnected the party with the rural masses.

In all these departments, the Congress, naturally as it was not the party in power, failed to deliver. Most of the Congress' grassroots organisations have been taken over by the BJP.

The BJP is always in election mode and their cadre -- be it a panchayat election, municipal election or any other local level administration -- move earth and heaven to help their candidates win.

The BJP's entire top leadership gets involved. In this election, the BJP made many of its ministers and MPs fight the assembly election. They fight elections to win, but the Congress leadership lacks that enthusiasm as well as charisma.

The voters today are wiser: They will not speak a word about their party preference until voting day. They proved how wrong all those pre-election surveys favouring the Congress were.

While the BJP leaders expressed confidence that they will retain Madhya Pradesh, do you think the margin of victory would even surprise them?

This formidable verdict, coming as it is after the 2019 election defeat, will definitely surprise even the BJP leadership.

The internal rivalries and factionalism within the Congress too contributed to the party's no-show in the state.

The way the BJP's central leadership entered the fray in this assembly election, the central leadership of the Congress was sorely missing. This is the biggest reason why the BJP trounced the Congress in MP.

The positivity generated by the Bharat Jodo Yatra, some six months ago, has all but faded for the party. People did not see as much as Rahul Gandhiji as much as they saw Modiji in this election.

IMAGE: Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Bharatiya Janata Party Pradesh Committee President V D Sharma offer sweets to each other as they celebrate the party's win in the state assembly elections, December 2, 2023. Photograph: ANI Photo

Was Jyotiraditya Scindia's defection to the BJP a reason for the Congress' rout in Madhya Pradesh?

There was a clear connect with the masses as far as the decision-making of Modi-Shah were concerned. The voters in the state saw a clear disconnect between the state and central leadership of the Congress.

Somehow, the BJP is seen as more powerful than the Congress when it comes to stemming intra-party defections.

Those defecting from the Congress had no fear of the party high command. In BJP, nobody would dare cross the party line.

In Congress, it is an open secret how the high command avoids lending a patient hearing to their estranged local leaders.

In fact, the BJP is even more accommodating of rebels within the party. The BJP high command talks to their estranged state leaders. That is what clearly sets the BJP apart from the Congress.

Given how long the Congress has been in power in the state and having more experience in dealing with intra-party rivalry and defections, the party central leadership showed weakness in dealing with rebels time and again.

While the BJP has succeeded in encashing the popularity of its ideology and schemes the Congress has failed miserably when it was in power in MP.

The Congress failed to encash the anti-incumbency factor against the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government...

The BJP, more so Chouhan's leadership, must be credited for negating the sentiments that work against the incumbent in power. The Congress has not nursed its regional leadership well.

Being in the Opposition the only gambit left open for Kamal Nath (the Congress leader in MP) was offer promises and populism, but Chouhan, being in power, could actually fulfill his 2019 promises.

The BJP gamed and pre-empted Congress's promises in MP. Whatever Kamal Nath promised he will deliver after the elections, Chouhan delivered before. The Congress promised, but the BJP acted and fulfilled what was part of the Congress' manifesto.

Incumbency, in this sense, helped Chouhan retain himself as the BJP's tallest leader in the state.

IMAGE: Congress leader Kamal Nath campaigns in the Pandhurna assembly constitutency, November 5, 2023. Photograph: Kind courtesy MP Congress/X

With almost 50 per cent drop in its seat share, how do you look at the Congress' future in MP?

The Congress' future is in the hands of what's left of the Congress in the state now. So long as they don't resolve their internal rivalries, strengthen their regional leadership and brings in a hands-on central leadership the party will continue to struggle here.

They will have to strengthen their organisational capabilities. While Scindia quitting the party did dent the party's fortunes it did help the second rung leadership in the Congress to get involved in the hurly-burly of politics.

The Congress couldn't encash the sympathy wave that worked in its favour when Scindia quit the Congress and helped topple Kamal Nath's government in 2020.

Both Kamal Nath and Digvijay Singh failed the party. These leaders should work more for the party, its organisation than work for their personal interests.

The central leadership will have to burn a lot of midnight oil now given the way the state has voted in 2023. Shooting orders or making strategies by sitting in Delhi will do not good; the central leadership will have to go out in the field, get their hands dirty.

The Congress' organisational structures have completely collapsed in the state.

The Bharat Jodo Yatra did create ripples in the state, didn't it?

Yes, it did. But the Congress would have benefitted from it if elections were to be held soon after the yatra.

The BJP is quite vocal about its Hindutva agenda, they are working towards implementing it and that has cut ice with the voters.

The Congress should not unnecessarily oppose abrogation of Article 370 or speak ill about it. Rahul Gandhi spoke about its abrogation during his yatra, which he should not have done. Every time he does that, he walks into BJP's trap.

The Congress should not touch upon issues where the BJP is already powerfully entrenched. The BJP has got positive response from the people for its Hindutva policies. The Congress needs to create a new narrative.

Do you think Shivraj Singh Chouhan will make way for someone else, maybe Scindia?

Chouhanji might get to play a role in the Union Cabinet. Madhya Pradesh could see a new, fresh face as chief minister. Given his expertise and experience he (Chouhan) would definitely be an asset at the Centre.

A fresh face as chief minister would further strengthen the BJP and weaken the Congress in Madhya Pradesh.

If Scindia were to be made chief minister the Congress tally in 2028 would further plummet under 50. The Congress could almost get decimated.

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PRASANNA D ZORE / Rediff.com
 
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