Madhya Pradesh by-election result a warning to BJP

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By: L.S Herdenia

While the people of Madhya Pradesh are starving for medical oxygen, voters of Damoh provided much-needed oxygen to the Congress by electing its nominee with a margin of more than 17,000 votes. Observers feel that it was not an ordinary victory for Congress. The Damoh results have numerous implications. By electing Congress candidates, Damoh voters have punished a defector. BJP candidate Rahul Lodhi was elected in the 2018 Vidhan Sabha elections as Congress candidate by defeating BJP stalwart Jayant Malaiya. Later at the behest of the BJP, he resigned from the Vidhan Sabha, joined BJP, and contested elections as a BJP candidate. His choice for by-election caused a lot of resentment in the BJP. Malaiya also revolted but with a lot of persuasions, he agreed to work for the party. Despite that immediately after the election results, Rahul accused Malaiya of sabotaging the election and demanded disciplinary action against him. Damoh’s defeat gave a serious shock to the BJP largely because it treated the by-election as a prestige contest. Almost the entire state leadership, including the chief minister, more than a dozen ministers, two or three Central ministers, and state party chief VD Sharma addressed meetings and some of them camped there for many days. Among those who camped there was health minister Dr. Prabhu Ram Choudhary. He was criticised for not giving time to handling the Corona crisis and giving full attention to the by-poll.

Important leaders who camped in Damoh included Union minister Prahalad Patel, state ministers Gopal Bhargava and Bhupendra Singh.

The results have come as a rude shock for the state BJP leadership, who were confident of victory. Soon murmurs about sabotage started doing the rounds within the party. Though the BJP is yet to react officially to the loss, Prahalad Patel, who led Lodhi’s campaign, was the first to congratulate Tandon through a tweet even before the results were announced.

The key factor to the by-election was former minister Jayant Malaiya. Malaiya has won six elections from Damoh. Lodhi’s joining the BJP angered Malaiyas. The poll outcome has made it clear that the anger of Maliya’a supporters for giving tickets to Lodhi has weighed heavily on the party. Not only that, the caste equation has gone against the BJP in this election. As far as the caste equation goes, once Lodhi was given a ticket, it turned out to be a contest between Lodhis versus all. The dissatisfaction and anger among the voters could be gauged by the fact that Lodhi lost in his own polling booth.

Congress candidate Ajay Tandon led right from the time counting began and increased his margin towards the end.  Ajay Tandon belongs to a traditional Congress family. Several members of the family have contested elections on the Congress ticket. They include the late Prabhu Narayan Tandon, who occupied a ministerial position in several Congress ministries. It was because of traditional loyalty Ajay Tandon was chosen. Many observers feel that by rejecting BJP candidate Damoh, voters gave the verdict against the performance of the Chouhan government, particularly over the complacency shown before the second wave of Covid-19. There is a general feeling that the BJP government failed to take preventive steps to avert the second wave. Perhaps it was also a vote against failure on several fronts.

As for Damoh result’s impact on Congress, it has re-established faith in the capability of Kamal Nath. The entire strategy for the by-poll was evolved by Kamal Nath. Instead of organising big public meetings, he concentrated on small meetings and door-to-door campaigns.

He provided all possible resources to the candidate. He also took steps to unite local party men and overcome factional differences.

Commenting on the outcome, Kamal Nath said that Congress would introspect and will make a strategy for the Lok Sabha polls in 2024. Addressing a press conference in Bhopal after the election results of the five states, he said that the BJP was defeated badly in West Bengal where it claimed to get 200 plus seats.

When asked to react over the outcome of the state polls and the by-election in Damoh, Nath said that a message has been sent that the BJP style of politics would not last.

Besides the Damoh result, the Bengal verdict will also affect the politics of MP. Bharatiya Janata party. Kailash Vijayvargiya, a very important leader of MP, was given charge of West Bengal. As general secretary of the party, he was doing the groundwork to strengthen the party. For the last three years, he was camping in Bengal. The central leadership of the party was almost fully dependent on his advice. He was confident that the party will capture power. But the results have betrayed his assessment. This will affect his position and influence not only at the central level but also in Madhya Pradesh. (IPA Service)

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