Election results 2024: After BJP’s clean sweep, Congress has an uphill task of revamp in Madhya Pradesh

The former Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh Shivraj Singh Chouhan and his wife Sadhna Singh greet supporters during the counting of votes in Vidish Lok Sabha constituency on Tuesday.
| Photo Credit: PTI

While the Congress has a lot to cheer in the national perspective, the party will have to introspect its performance in Madhya Pradesh where it is unlikely to open its account. The BJP in the State is headed to a win in all 29 seats of the State.

The Congress also lost Chhindwara, a long-term stronghold of former Chief Minister Kamal Nath and the only seat it had won in 2019, with his son and incumbent MP Nakul Nath losing to BJP’s Vivek ‘Bunty’ Sahu by more than 1 lakh votes. 

Former Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh, who was fielded from his home constituency of Rajgarh, also failed to grab the seat from BJP’s Rodmal Nagar. Mr. Singh, who was initially not interested to contest, had a large void to overcome in the constituency which the BJP won in 2019 by over 4.31 lakh votes. 

Starring at another big loss in the State in six months, after the the Assembly election debacle in November last year, the Congress in Madhya Pradesh now has the tough task of revamping the party at the ground level in the upcoming years. In the Assembly election, the Congress had only won 66 seats compared to the BJP’s 163. 

The party was also marred by a series of defections to the BJP, including its official candidate in Indore Akshay Kanti Bam and three MLAs, shaking the confidence of party cadre going into the Lok Sabha election. The BJP proudly claimed that lakhs of ground-level Congress leaders and workers had joined the ruling party in the past few months.  

Speaking to The Hindu on the results, State Congress president Jitu Patwari admitted the Assembly election defeat and defections were major factors in the party’s performance. 

“We had hoped that the State’s public would align with the national perspective. But, we had just finished the [Assembly] election here and after that, we tried to do our best but its impact was seen [on Lok Sabha election],” he said. 

“Unfortunately, I have to say the circumstances that arose due to people leaving [the party] were also a factor,” he added. 

Mr. Patwari, who was made the State unit chief in place of Mr. Kamal Nath following the Assembly election rout, however said that the Congress’s vote percentage has increased in the State and that the party will introspect the results and start preparing for the next Assembly election soon. 

“Last time [in 2019], our average defeat margin was around 3.5 lakh which this time has has come down below two lakh votes. There are seats that where we are losing by 25,000-30,000 votes,” he said. 

The Congress also failed to achieve a consolidation on caste lines in the State, which has more than 50% Other Backward Class (OBC) and 21% tribal population, whereas the BJP appears to have strengthened its position among the two communities that had driven its Assembly election performance. 

Senior journalist and poll observer Rasheed Kidwai said that the party’s State unit failed to do the groundwork and could not benefit from Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s appeal to marginalised communities like the Dalits and tribals. 

“It has to be a failure of the State leadership because the Congress in Rajasthan has bounced back after the Assembly election defeat last year. In Madhya Pradesh, they also could not connect with the voters between 18 and 35 years, whom many surveys showed were upset with the current government,” said Mr. Kidwai, adding that the Congress also could not attract women voters, who have evolved into a large, specific vote bank. 

The Congress and Mr. Patwari also have the challenge of grooming a fresh line of leadership in the State out of the shadows of Mr. Singh and Mr. Kamal Nath, who are both 77, and have long commanded the State unit. Mr. Singh had already declared that this would be his last election while Mr. Kamal Nath appeared more focused on Chhindwara and was not quite active across the State. 

“When a new generation comes, naturally the elders of the family give their blessings,” he said, adding that many new faces will emerge in the coming time.  

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