Bhopal: The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Madhya Pradesh won the two traditional Congress Assembly seats of Jobat and Prithvipur with the help of defectors from the grand old party and the Samajwadi Party (SP) and managed to retain the Khandwa Lok Sabha (LS) seat with a thin margin.
The Congress, which only managed to make a mark on the BJP stronghold of Raigaon Assembly seat after three decades, witnessed a sharp rise in voting percentage in comparison to the 2018 elections in four seats.
The voting in the four seats was held on October 30 after the demise of the three sitting MLAs and one MP. The Prithvipur and Jobat (ST) seats were held by the Congress while Raigaon and Khandwa were with the BJP.
Despite a poor performance in the by-polls in the 29 Assembly seats and the three parliamentary across 13 states, the saffron party’s wins in Madhya Pradesh were an exception. Despite facing public ire over rising inflation, fertiliser shortage and skyrocketing prices of petrol, diesel and LPG, the BJP emerged victorious riding on the shoulder of two defectors. In the 230-seat Assembly, the BJP has 128 MLAs and the Congress 95. Out of the remaining seven seats, the Bahujan Samajwadi Party holds two, the SP one and independents four.
Interestingly, the Congress voting percentage rose sharply despite the defeats. For example, in Khandwa, which was won by the BJP in 2019 with more than 2.73 lakh votes, the ruling party’s winning margin shrunk to 81,500 votes. The Congress voting percentage increased by a whopping 17% in Raigaon in comparison to the 2018 elections, more than 10% in Jobat and around 8% in Prithvipur.
The BJP witnessed two surprising victories. The tribal-dominated Jobat seat, won by the Congress in the 2018 elections with a slim margin of 2,000-plus votes, went to its former MLA Sulochana Rawat, who had defected to the BJP weeks before the by-polls. Rawat beat Mahesh Patel of the Congress with 6,080 votes by securing 68,752. The seat had fallen vacant after the death of Kalawanti Bhuriya of the Congress due to COVID-19.
The BJP won Prithvipur by pitting former SP leader Sishupal Yadav against Nitendra Singh Rathore, the son of deceased Congress MLA Brajendra Singh Rathore. Yadav, who had defected to the BJP weeks before the by-elections, beat Rathore by 15,641 votes securing 53.12% votes against Rathore’s 43.04%.
The BJP also succeeded in retaining the Khandwa LS seat— which had become vacant after former BJP state president and MP Nandkumar Chouhan succumbed to the virus—though with a reduced voting margin. Gyaneshwar Patil, a Zila Panchayat Adhyaksh from Khandwa, secured 49.85% votes against three-time former Congress MLA Rajnarayan Singh Purni, who bagged 43.38% votes.
Admitting defeat and thanking the voters, Arun Subhash Yadav, a Union minister in the UPA-II government, tweeted: “In a democracy, the public’s decision must be honoured. The party contested the by-polls as a united organisation and the winning margin of the rival party was considerably reduced due to the hard work of party workers in the last six months. Remaining active on the ground is the need of the hour and it will help us win the 2023-24 elections.”
The Congress managed to win only Raigaon, a stronghold of the BJP. Congress candidate Kaplana Verma beat the BJP’s Pratima Bagri by a margin of 12,096 votes breaching the saffron bastion after 31 years.
Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan termed the BJP’s victories, especially in Jobat and Prithvipur, miraculous. “In 2018, we got only 12,000 votes in Prithvipur and secured the fourth place. In Jobat, which has 90% tribal voters, the BJP was labelled an anti-tribal party. We had lost the seat in 2019 by a margin of 18,000 votes. Now, we have won both the seats. It is no less than a miracle. Tribal voters have shown their faith in the BJP,” he told reporters.
The win in Jobat is important for the BJP with its mission of regaining tribal and Dalit votes in the state before the 2023 Assembly polls. In the 2018 elections, the BJP suffered a considerable erosion in its SC and ST support base—of the 82 reserved seats, it won 34 (18 SC and 16 ST seats), down from the 59 reserved seats it won in the 2013 elections (31 ST and 28 SC).
State Congress spokesperson Narendra Saluja said that though the party won only one seat and lost two, “this does not mean that the BJP has won these seats. In Jobat, the former Congress MLA emerged victorious. In Prithvipur, a former SP leader won. In Khandwa, where the BJP had won the 2019 election with a margin of more than 2.7 lakh votes, the winning gap has now reduced by thousands”.