Ex-chief ministers Digvijaya Singh, Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia at a function before latter joined BJP
Ex-chief ministers Digvijaya Singh, Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia at a function before latter joined BJP
FP file photo

Bhopal: When the country was staring at a long-drawn battle with coronavirus, Madhya Pradesh was in the throes of hectic political activity which culminated in the fall of the Congress government in March, paving the way for BJP's return to power after narrowly losing the 2018 polls. The dramatic collapse of the 15-month-old Congress government helmed by party veteran Kamal Nath was the biggest political event of 2020 in Madhya Pradesh.

Like rest of the country, Madhya Pradesh also bore the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant lockdown which brought public life and business activities barring essential services to a halt. Indore, India's cleanest city, emerged as the state's top Covid -19 hotspot followed by Bhopal as the health authorities dealt with daily coronavirus cases and deaths across Madhya Pradesh.

Following a hard-earned victory in the Assembly polls, the Congress had assumed power in the state in December 2018 after a long gap of 15 years. While the Covid -19 outbreak disrupted the world, the Congress saw disorder in its legislative rank in Madhya Pradesh where a revolt by a section of MLAs and ministers, considered close to former Union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia, cost it a government in a key Hindi heartland state.

The country's oldest political party also performed poorly in the November 3 bypolls held for 28 Assembly seats, most of them vacated by Congress MLAs who later joined the BJP. While the BJP won 19 seats, the Congress had to settle for nine. The bypoll results helped the BJP get a comfortable

majority in the 230-member Assembly and consolidate its hold on power. Scindia, who lost the chief ministership race to Nath in December 2018, played a key role in the political developments that eventually toppled the Congress government. Twenty-two MLAs, including six ministers, most of them associates of Scindia, resigned from their seats, reducing the Congress government to a minority in the Assembly, prompting Nath to step down without facing a floor test.

His resignation, capping a long-drawn political drama, came just a few days before the country went into a lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19. Scindia and the other Congress rebels later joined the BJP.

As it lost power, an angry Congress repeatedly targeted Scindia, now a Rajya Sabha MP, during the year and accused him of backstabbing the party. The year 2020 will go down in the history of Madhya Pradesh as a black spot for political treachery on part of Scindia. The Congress gave Scindia so much, but in return it was back-stabbed by him," Congress spokesman K K Mishra said.

Ex-CM Kamal Nath with CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan
Ex-CM Kamal Nath with CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan
FP file photo

On the other hand, the ruling BJP said the Congress was rejected by voters in the bypolls. State BJP spokesman Pankaj Chaturvedi said the people of Madhya Pradesh gave a befitting reply to the Congress on the traitor barb in the bypolls. The BJP won 19 out the 28 seats that went to bypolls. The voters reposed faith in the BJPs leadership and its policies which they witnessed during its 15 years of rule from 2003 to 2018.

The BJP banked on Shivraj Singh Chouhan (61) to head the government again and he became the state's chief minister for a record fourth-term. After the resignation of 22 MLAs, three more Congress legislators quit the party to join the BJP.

The bypolls, delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, saw a high-decibel campaign with charges flying thick and fast between the Congress and BJP camps. The campaign witnessed a bitter war of words between

Congress and BJP leaders with the 'traitor' jibe freely hurled at each other. Congress leaders termed Scindia a traitor for deserting the party, while BJP politicians used the same description for that party for reneging on pre-poll promises made to people, especially agriculture loan waiver to farmers. Nath was taken to task by the Election Commission for using the word 'item' for Congress MLA-turned-BJP minister Imarti Devi, who ended losing the by-poll from Dabra SC seat.

Despite the BJP's good show in the bypolls, Chouhan has been unable to further expand his ministry due to pulls and also pressures from within the party. Accommodating Scindia loyalists, who retained their Assembly seats, in the state ministry is proving an uphill task for him, sources said.

Madhya Pradesh Governor Lalji Tandon (85), who was associated with the BJP for long, died on July 21 in Lucknow after a prolonged illness. After losing power in Madhya Pradesh, a Congress bastion before the BJP became a formidable force in the state, the opposition party faces the onerous task of rejuvenating itself from the grassroots level.

Nath, who is the MP Congress president and also the leader of the Opposition in Assembly, created a flutter recently with his remarks hinting at retirement from active politics. The 74-year-old Congress leader said he was "ready to rest" and not hankering for any post, setting off speculation that he is indicating at possible retirement from active politics after the partys defeat in the bypolls.

The coronavirus outbreak and the lockdown adversely affected the state's economy, which was put on the revival path only after the unlock process started. In May, Chouhan had said the state's economy had been battered due to the coronavirus outbreak and disruption in business and financial activities. In a major decision, the Chouhan-led government in August announced that necessary legal provisions will be made to provide government jobs to local people.

The chief minister said resources of the state are meant for state residents. The BJP government also said it plans to come out with a new industrial policy to provide relief to coronavirus-hit micro, small and medium enterprises in the state.

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