BHOPAL: Anti-incumbency at local level and faulty ticket distribution took a toll on ruling BJP and main opposition Congress in the Madhya Pradesh assembly elections. The anti-incumbency against the local MLAs and several ministers denied BJP a fourth straight victory in the state. As many as 13 ministers of the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government have bitten the dust in the assembly elections.
Antiincumbency also hit the otherwise upbeat Congress camp as many bigwigs had to face defeat on their traditional seats. The neck and neck fight between the two arch rival parties did not lead either of the two to reach the simple majority figure of 116. Faulty ticket distribution also dented the prospects of the two parties as many rebels substantially cut down the vote share of the official candidates.
Four Congress rebels contested as independents and went on to defeat BJP candidates, pushing official candidates of their parent party to third and even fourth positions in at least three seats- Burhanpur, Bhagwanpura and Waraseoni. This aptly explains how the party failed to attain magic figure on its own. Also some Congress official candidates like exminister Subhash Sojatia from Garoth, sitting MLA from Barwani Ramesh Patel, Rajkumar Ahir from Jawad and ex-state Congress chief Kantilal Bhuria’s son Vikrant Bhuria from Jhabua lost to BJP candidates due to party rebels is also an indicator that something went wrong during ticket distribution.
Around 22 seats in the state, where votes polled for NOTA exceeded the margin of win/defeat is indicative of unpopularity of official candidates. In at least 13 of these seats, BJP candidates had to face defeat. The constituency includes Gwalior-South, Burhanpur, Damoh, Jabalpur- North, Suwasra, Jobat, Bioara, Petlawad, Mandhata, Nepanagar, Gunnour, Rajnagar and Rajpur. In four of these seats, it was the ministers of Shivraj Singh Chouhan government, Narayan Singh Kushwah (Gwalior- South), Archana Chitnis (Burhanpur), Jayant Malaiya (Damoh) and Sharad Jain (Jabalpur- North).
Disregarding ‘winnability’ criterion hits BJP hard
More than a dozen ministers from the erstwhile Shivraj Singh Chouhanled government lost the state assembly polls. Prepoll surveys conducted internally by BJP had given negative reports of many of the ministers; however, the party went ahead and gave tickets to them. The report had put a big question mark on the winnability of nine of the thirteen ministers who lost polls, this incudes Rustam Singh (Morena), Lalita Yadav (Malhara), Sharad Jain (Jabalpur-North), Jayant Malaiya (Damoh), Omprakash Dhurve (Shahpura), Lal Singh Arya (Gohad), Antar Singh Arya (Sendhwa), Deepak Joshi (Hatpipliya) and Umashankar Gupta (Bhopal Dakshin Pashchim).
“God knows why series of internal surveys were conducted by the party for deciding the candidates, when the findings of these surveys were never to be taken into account for choosing the right candidates,” said BJP leaders while talking to Free Press. Importantly, various internal surveys of the BJP had recommended for denying tickets to around 90-110 sitting MLAs, including several ministers, but the party could gather courage to cut tickets of only 48 such sitting MLAs against whom there was high anti-incumbency not only among voters of their constituencies, but even among the party workers, said a BJP leader on condition of anonymity.
Congress fails to capitalise anti-incumbency
The issues of local antiincumbency and faulty ticket distribution also cost at least 10-12 seats to the Congress, which somehow managed to get close to the simple majority mark. According to sources in the state Congress, loss of party’s bigwigs, like exministers Ramniwas Rawat (Vijaypur), Mukesh Naik (Pawai), deputy speaker of Vidhan Sabha Rajendra Singh (Amarpatan), Sunderlal Tiwari (Gurh), Surendra Choudhary (Naryawali) and leader of opposition Ajay Singh (Churhat) too had components of anti-incumbency against them at the local level.
Some other senior Congress leaders, including the two state party working presidents Bala Bachchan and Jeetu Patwari, besides former minister KP Singh managed to win from their constituencies by very thin margins after trailing behind BJP for several rounds. As per a senior Congress leader from Central MP, the Bhojpur seat was a classic example of how anti-incumbency prevailing against sitting MLA can be neutralized if his opponent is more unpopular among voters.
Two-time sitting MLA and minister Surendra Patwa, who had high degree of anti-incumbency against him managed to win for the second time in a row against ex-state Congress chief and former union minister Suresh Pachouri, who was fielded by Congress for the same seat despite having lost 2013 polls to Patwa only by around 20,000 votes.