The results of the two high-profile by-polls for the Madhya Pradesh Assembly give both the Congress Party and the BJP plenty of reason to mull over the electoral strategy ahead of the crucial Assembly polls in the State later in the year. The Congress might have managed to retain the two seats falling in the pocket-borough of Jyotiraditya Scindia, but the much reduced margin of victory in both does not reflect a strong anti-incumbency against the ruling party.
After nearly a decade in power, the Shivraj Singh Chouhan Government has reason not to be disheartened by the outcome. Admittedly, Chouhan had thrown his all into the campaigning, virtually locating his Cabinet in the two constituencies, but he cannot be faulted for not trying hard enough. His solace lies in the thin margin of the Congress wins as against the 2013 election. On its part, the Congress can draw comfort that by and large Scindia was able to enlist the support of various faction leaders. The Gwalior scion’s influence majorly accounts for the twin victories. Which means that a tough contest is on the cards when the Assembly polls are held a few months hence.
Given that the Congress Party remains riven by clashing ambitions, it should not go into the Assembly polls without first settling the chief ministerial candidate. Unlike the cadre-based BJP, the Congress relies on the pull of individual leaders. And should they continue to pull in different directions, it will be tough matching the organisational strengths and energies of the BJP’s electoral machine.