Civic polls in M.P & Rajasthan ring alarm bells for BJP

Civic polls in M.P & Rajasthan ring alarm bells for BJP

The results of local bodies elections and by elections in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have rung alarm bells for ruling Bhartiya Janata Party ahead of next year assembly poll. The results of recent round of municipal elections in these two northern states are indicative of the fact that incumbency has crept in against the respective state governments making it difficult for them to win.

In Rajasthan Congress won all four zila parishad seats, 16 of 17 seats in village bodies and seven of 13 municipal wards throwing a stiff challenge to the BJP that has been to power. In Madhya Pradesh though the BJP has not done as badly as in Rajasthan in the recently concluded municipal elections winning 25 of 43 local bodies that went to polls, it has however, lost many key seats in the local bodies to the Congress that are considered to be its strong hold reducing its tally from 28 to 25.

The Congress party has been fighting to wrest power in the state for the last there terms, increase in its strength from 9 to 15 is an impressive performance despite being a faction-ridden.

A year before the Assembly elections in the state, the win for BJP, however, didn’t come without some reasons to worry. Though the Congress could win only 15 seats, it swept Mandsaur, which was the epic-centre of recent farmers’ protests in the state.

In the last civic body elections, BJP had won 28 seats. Clearly, it has lost ground in some local bodies. In contrast, Congress not only won all three seats in Mandsaur region but also improved its tally, signalling its rise in the state.

The electoral fortunes of the BJP witnessed a slide despite chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan working hard to win. He deployed a dozen of his ministers besides, legislatures and MPs cautioning them that any defeat would reflect in their report cards adversely dimming their chances to secure party ticket to fight next elections.

The chief minister Chauhan, the lone vote-catcher of the BJP, had worked hard to win the polls. However, the party lost half of the constituencies where Chauhan had campaigned. Even an independent poll had anticipated a dip in the party’s tally. The agency that carried out the survey among the agitating farmers had predicted a sharp fall in popularity of the chief minister. The detractors of the chief minister who were buoyed with the civic body elections results suffered a major setback when party president Amit Shah made it clear to the party workers and leaders that Chauhan would continue to lead the party in 2018 assembly elections putting an end to the speculation about the chief minister being transferred to centre.

The BJP president gave a reprieve to the chief minister Chauhan acknowledging that under the present circumstances he is the best bet as he is always in election mode The ruling BJP had won almost all the election that were held after a cash-for-jobs scam that hit the state making dent in the image of the state government. It won the polls to the state assembly in November 2013, the Lok Sabha in May 2014 and several civic bodies since November 2014. But the ruling party a relatively insignificant victory in eight out of 10 municipal bodies.

The state government had initially refused to cooperate with the investigating agencies. However, as more and more evidences about involvement of senior government functionaries including some ministers cropped up. Subsequently, a public anger forced state chief minister Chouhan to agree to cooperate with the Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the case that the Supreme Court had ordered on July 9. The detractors of the chief minister have refused to attribute the victory in the civic bodies’ polls to Chauhan popularity arguing that it was not the chief minister but the party that emerged victorious in the recent elections because Chauhan’s image was damaged after Vyapam scam.

Chief minister of Madhya Pradesh Shivraj Singh Chauhan is seeking a straight fourth term for him in the upcoming assembly elections that would certainly be a contest to watch out for. The main opposition Congress party in alliance with non-BJP political parties including independent candidates that exist in the state identified farmers’ agitation in Mandsaur district as one of their main electoral plank for having potential of providing political dividends. During election campaign trails Congress raised the issue of farmers’ distress and it bore fruits for the party and its allies in Mandsaur and Ratlam — the districts that witnessed widespread violence.

The incident in which state government had prevented the Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi from entering Mandsaur when it was burning came as blessing in disguise for opposition. The stormy visit of Rahul Gandhi did help the state Congress catapult itself ahead of the civic body polls. The party had been successful in fuelling the farmers’ anger and convert it into votes in its favour.

“The results of the local bodies by poll have proved that the countdown for the BJP in Rajasthan has begun. Congress has given voice to the feelings of the people in the last four years and the trust in the party has grown. The civic by-election results are a setback for the BJP as it lost two nagar palika wards in Baran district, which is a strong hold of chief minister Vasundhara Raje’s MP son Dushyant Singh. The results have depicted people’s disenchantment with the BJP and a renewed faith in Congress. The Congress party hope to win in the upcoming by-elections to two Lok Sabha and one Assembly seats as well,” said Sachin Pilot, Congress state president.

The BJP leadership, however, are not bothered about the result of recently held elections that are bound to have an impact on this year assembly elections. “The result was good for Congress as it has grabbed several seats that Congress had held earlier,” said Anand Sharma, state BJP spokesman. Significantly, Congress had won 19 out of a total 37 seats in by polls to urban local bodies and panchayat raj institutions. The ruling BJP could secure only ten seats.

Meanwhile, the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), a non-government body that deals with the electoral system and process of the country had in its report pointed out that 33 per cent of the candidates in the by polls to civic bodies are billionaire and 16 per cent of the candidates have serious criminal cases registered against them. Two out of 19 are from the Congress, one out of 20 from the BJP, 2 from SHS and 5 independent candidates have serious cases against them.

The upcoming elections in eight states are crucial for BJP as the party is in power in four out of 8 poll going states and among them three are in north India and the party has been ruling two of them Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh for last 15 years.

The unmistakable signs of anti-incumbency in the BJP-ruled three states have caused worries for the party leadership as dissatisfaction level within the rank and file of the party has reached a very level making it almost impossible for the party to keep their flock together as the chief ministers of these states who have been holding the forts for last 15 years have not made any attempt to build second-rank leadership.

(Kushal Jeena)