[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he figures are worrisome for both the BJP and the Congress. A detailed analysis of the Madhya Pradesh Assembly election results reveals that, if the Congress had cobbled a pre-poll seat-sharing alliance with the other Opposition parties, it would have been in a position to bag at least 155 seats out of 230. The anti-BJP alliance would have walked away with a clear two-thirds majority. And the BJP’s tally would have shrunk to a measly 75.
It is true that the Congress improved its performance by increasing its vote share by four per cent, winning 114 Vidhan Sabha constituencies. But it is also true that it fell two seats short of absolute majority. The Congress’s gain was the BJP’s loss. Anti-incumbency against the 15-year-old BJP government led to the ruling party losing four per cent of the vote share. It could win only 109 seats.
The Congress made impressive gains in all geographic sub-regions of the state, including the BJP citadel of Malwa-Nimar. But it suffered badly in the Vindhya region, where its seats shrank from 12 to 6. This was the only region where the BJP gained this time. Its tally improved from 16 to 24 in Vindhya. Even the Leader of the Opposition, Ajay Singh, lost in what was thought to be his family borough of Churhat; and so did his cousin, Deputy Speaker Rajendra Singh.
[box type=”shadow” align=”” class=”” width=””]What the poll analysts say about the results…
An analysis of the constituency-wise results reveals that the Congress lost as many as 17 seats in Vindhya due to anti-BJP votes getting split between the Bahujan Samaj Party, Gondwana party and Samajwadi Party. Had these parties been able to reach a pre-poll understanding, they would have bagged at least 23 out of 30 seats, causing a near-rout of the BJP in that region. Not only in the Vindhya region, but the BSP, SP and Gondwana party damaged the Congress’s prospects in several other parts of the state, particularly in the areas bordering Uttar Pradesh.[/box]
Most analysts rightly blame the Congress’s poor performance in Vindhya for missing the magic figure of 116. Why did that happen? More importantly, how could the BJP improve its tally in this particular region?
An analysis of the constituencywise results reveals that the Congress lost as many as 17 seats in Vindhya due to anti-BJP votes getting split between Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Gondwana party and Samajwadi Party (SP). Had these parties been able to reach a pre-poll understanding, they would have bagged at least 23 out of 30 seats, causing a near-rout of the BJP in that region. It was not only in the Vindhya region that the BSP, SP and Gondwana party candidates damaged the Congress’s prospects. A similar trend was observed in several other parts of the state, particularly in the areas bordering Uttar Pradesh the bastion of the BSP and SP.
The Congress lost altogether 34 seats in Madhya Pradesh due to a split of the anti-BJP votes. For instance, Congress candidate from Ater Hemant Katare lost to the BJP’s Arvind Bhadoriya, who was defeated twice from that constituency in the past, only because the BSP cut into the anti-BJP votes.
The BSP, SP and Gondwana party got only 3 seats in the state. But, together, they polled more than eight per cent combined votes. That is what stopped the Congress from reaching the midway mark. The 2018 MP Assembly election results show that, for the past 15 years, it has become a ‘BJP versus the rest’ scenario. With the anti-BJP votes getting split, it worked to the ruling party’s advantage, just as, earlier, the Congress benefited from the TINA factor. The Congress made spectacular gains in the tribal areas the main reason behind its victory. It managed to stage a comeback in the tribal areas, which had always been its bastion. On the other hand, the BJP suffered due to the alienation of its upper caste support base over the SC/ST Act issue. It was reflected in the 1.42 per cent votes being cast in favour of NOTA. Political analysts say the BJP lost at least 11 seats due to NOTA.
The fragmented mandate has a direct bearing on the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. If the present trend continues, the BJP will lose only 11 of the 29 Lok Sabha seats to the Congress. In 2014, riding on the Modi wave, it had bagged 27 constituencies in MP. But that scenario will change radically if the Congress enters into a seat-sharing alliance with the other Opposition parties.
There are already indications of informal parleys taking place among the non-BJP parties. That is what helped the Congress form a government in MP this time, with unconditional support extended by the BSP and the SP. At the same time, Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav have indicated their displeasure with the Congress by keeping away from Kamal Nath’s swearing-in ceremony. But that is seen more as a prelude to hard bargaining over seat sharing in Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere. But, in case a non-BJP alliance does not take place, the Congress will suffer again. Let us keep in mind that, in the Assembly elections, the BJP may have bagged fewer seats, but its vote share was slightly more compared to that of the Congress. That is a danger signal for the Congress!
(The author is a senior journalist)