Madhya Pradesh’s political crisis has been at its peak since early 2020 with the dramatic political defection by Jyotiraditya Scindia and 25 MLAs from the Indian National Congress (INC) to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that led to the fall of the Kamal Nath government. This article focuses on addressing the implications of these defections on the party equations in the State, primarily in the regions of Malwa-Nimar, Mahakoshal and Chambal-Gwalior and why they set the stage for one of the most awaited State Assembly by-elections in recent times.
Rohit Kumar V
The State of Madhya Pradesh (MP) held by-elections for 28 of its 230 assembly constituencies in the first week of November 2020. The results of the by-elections solidify Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) position in the government, as Jyotiraditya Scindia led the party to a clear victory over the Congress, with the former securing 19 seats and the latter being restricted to 9 of the 28 assembly seats. The primary reason for holding the by-elections was the fall of the previous Indian National Congress (INC) government led by Kamal Nath, which failed to prove majority in the floor test conducted on March 20, 2020. The magic number that the Nath government had to surpass to hold onto its position of authority in the State was 116, a requirement which the Congress failed to fulfil, paving way for the BJP to smoothly sail across the finish line. Amidst all the political drama that MP has witnessed over the last 10 months, one generic yet widely overlooked question that needs to be focused upon is the reason behind the fall a public figure in the State – Shivraj Singh Chauhan during the State Assembly Elections of 2018. It was an interesting narrative, given his unbreakable hold on the political climate of the state that enabled the BJP to stay in power for a resounding duration of 15 years.
In what was seen as a nail-biter of a result day in the MP Assembly elections of 2018, the margin of the vote share percentage between both the leading parties was by far one of the closest that any assembly election had witnessed, 0.1%. The BJP came close to the victory but fell short to the dominance of Jyotiraditya Scindia and Kamal Nath. In the past, the incumbent Chauhan led BJP did have its fair share of ups and downs, although the merits were quite evident compared to that of the negatives in its 15 years of governance. From 58 seats in 2014 to 114 in the 2018 Assembly elections, one of the primary reasons for this drastic increase in the seat share for the Congress was the poor performance of the BJP government in the regions of Chambal, Malwa-Nimar and Mahakoshal that had a huge impact on the election results and led to the fall of Chauhan and his cabinet.
Regardless of how harsh any party, particularly the Congress, experienced a failure against the BJP in the previous elections of MP, the land of Mahakoshal over time has been a bastion that has been closely contested by the BJP and INC, as both the parties share a similar scale of dominance primarily due to the presence of Kamal Nath who hails from this land. With the Congress finally having the last laugh in the 2018 elections, it solidified its standing winning 24 out of 38 seats that this particular region holds under its belt. Malwa-Nimar on the other hand, due to its tribal population, saw a drastic change in its choice of leaders. The region which voted for the BJP and landed it an overwhelming victory in 56 of the 66 seats in 2013 narrated a different story in 2018 when the BJP suffered a huge loss at the hands of the INC as the Congress walked away with 35 of the 66 seats that were contested. One could interpret these results as a direct implication of the ‘Mai Ka Laal’ speech made by Chauhan in his campaigns that hurt the sentiments of the upper caste population of this region as well as Chambal-Gwalior. As seen, the difference in seat share between the two parties was as close as 5 seats with the INC securing 114 and the BJP standing at 109. Given the powerhouses of both parties, Yashodhara Raje Scindia of the BJP and Jyotiraditya Scindia of the INC (formerly) hailing from Chambal and having an equal share of popularity and dominance, Chambal’s results were the biggest gamechanger for both the parties in the State elections. The BJP won 20 out of 34 seats in 2013 and saw a massive fall to a mere 7 seats in 2018. The region of Chambal saw the Congress secure a thumping majority of 26 out of the 34 seats in 2018, gaining 14 new constituencies that previously had an incumbent MLA from the BJP.
With the defection of Jyotiraditya Scindia from the Congress to the BJP in early March 2020, the Kamal Nath government witnessed resignations of 22 Congress MLAs’ after the Congress party high command officially ended ties with Scindia. Following this, 3 more MLAs decided to go the Scindia way and deserted the INC. While the nation watched the BJP form a government under the leadership of Shivraj Singh Chouhan for a historic fourth time, what seems to be missed out here however is the genius of a move by the BJP to establish its impact and authority over the constituencies of the Chambal region that swayed in Congress’ favour in 2018. Amongst the 25 MLAs who resigned from the government and later joined the BJP, 13 candidates belonged to the region of Chambal and further amongst whom ironically only 3 candidates of the INC had retained their seats while the other 10 candidates had secured a transitional victory as they overthrew the previously elected BJP candidates from power. Aidal Singh Kansana of Sumaoli; Raghuraj Kansana of Morena; Kamlesh Jatav of Ambah; O.P.S Bhadoria of Meghaon; Ranvir Singh Jatav of Gohad; Munnalal Goyal of Gwalior East; Suresh Dhakad of Pohari; Jajpal Singh of Ashok Nagar; Girraj Dandotiya of Dimani and Pradhuman Singh Tomar of Gwalior were the candidates who secured victory over their respective BJP opponents while Imarti Devi of Dabara; Mahendra Singh Sisodiya of Bamori and Brajendra Singh Yadav were the three candidates who continued in power by retaining their seats in their respective constituencies. Besides this, Tulsiram Silawat, Hardeep Singh and Rajyavardhan Singh – the 3 other MLAs who turned parties belong to important constituencies of the Malwa-Nimar region – will now represent the BJP rather than the INC and add to the growth of the BJP authority in Malwa-Nimar. Whether the implications of these political defections would prove to be in Congress’s advantage or torment the party from within is an uncertainty only the by-elections of November 2020 could explicate and clarify.
Rohit Kumar V is Research Intern at Centre for Public Policy Research. Views expressed are personal and need not reflect or represent the views of Centre for Public Policy Research.
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