Urban Battle: BJP Sits Pretty, Uphill Climb For Congress

Urban Battle: BJP Sits Pretty, Uphill Climb For Congress

The Congress party's reliance on farmer-centric schemes, while undoubtedly important, may not be sufficient to secure urban voter confidence.

Staff ReporterUpdated: Tuesday, October 24, 2023, 11:43 PM IST
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Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh): Over the past two decades, the Congress party has been struggling to breach the saffron citadel in urban constituencies. The Congress's uphill battle in urban areas can be attributed to several factors, including an enduring saffron sentiment in some urban pockets and the party’s lack of resonance with burning urban issues.

The Congress party's reliance on farmer-centric schemes, while undoubtedly important, may not be sufficient to secure urban voter confidence. The Congress party's strategic pivot, spearheaded by senior leader Rahul Gandhi, focuses on highlighting alleged corruption within the government. This move mirrors the strategy deployed in Karnataka elections, aimed at enticing urban voters.

In the 2018 assembly elections, a slight shift was observed in the urban constituencies in Mahakaushal, Chambal, and Malwa regions, where the BJP had to relinquish a few prestigious seats to the Congress. This shift contributed to a narrow Congress victory with 114 seats, a margin of only five seats over BJP.

Indore is celebrated as the cleanest city in India, where Congress managed to retain its electoral dominance in Indore 1, Depalpur, Sanver, and Rau assembly constituencies, in 2018. In the 2020 by-elections, BJP's Tulsiram Silawat recaptured the Sanver seat from the Congress. Silawat had won the seat in 2018 elections in Congress ticket.

In the last two decades, Indore has been a saffron bastion. In 2003, the BJP secured six out of eight assembly seats. By 2008, the party's tally had grown to seven seats, and in 2013, they clinched all eight. However, the 2018 elections witnessed a shift in urban voting patterns and public perception, with the Congress winning four seats against the BJP's five.

To bolster their urban campaign in the state, the BJP has fielded prominent figures such as Kailash Vijayvargiya, Narendra Singh Tomar, Prahlad Singh Patel, and former state chief Rakesh Singh.

Jabalpur too has been BJP’s stronghold. In 2003, the saffron party secured seven out of eight assembly seats, losing only one to the Congress. This trend continued in 2008 when the BJP won seven seats while the Congress could only secure one. In 2013, Congress doubled its tally to two seats, and in 2018, it achieved a surprising victory by securing four seats out of eight.

The Congress party's urban challenges are further exacerbated by its performance in the Vindhya region, where the party lost all eight seats to the BJP in 2018. This outcome was at odds with the public perception, as the Congress had previously performed relatively well in 2013, winning two seats compared to the BJP's five. In a triangular contest, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) secured one seat.

Vindhya, traditionally an uphill battle for the Congress, had seen disappointing results in the 2003 and 2008 assembly elections. In 2008, the Congress failed to secure a single seat, while the BJP won five seats. The BSP and the Bharatiya Jana Shakti (BJS) Party secured two and one seat, respectively.

The Chambal region emerges as the Congress party's beacon of hope, as the 2018 election results sent ripples through saffron circles. In 2003, the Congress failed to win a single seat in the Gwalior urban region, but it improved its tally in the subsequent elections. In 2008 and 2013, the Congress managed to secure two seats in the region, a number that doubled in the 2018 elections.

The capital region of Bhopal experienced a shift in voting trends during the 2018 assembly polls. The Congress tripled its tally, winning three seats against a single seat in the previous elections of 2003, 2008, and 2013. This was a significant breakthrough, signifying a change in the saffron bastion. In the current elections, the BJP is putting in a Herculean effort to regain all the seats it lost.

Yatindra Singh Sisodia, director of the MP Institute of Social Science Research, and co-editor of the book “How India Votes” observes that both Congress and BJP have unveiled comprehensive schemes targeting rural voters, such as the Ladli Behna scheme, farm loan waivers, and subsidised power tariffs. However, urban voters are disappointed by the absence of significant incentives. The core issue in urban areas is unemployment.

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