Bhopal: Bharatiya Janata party leaders might say social welfare schemes, freebies or revadis but when it gets mixed with nationalism and Hindutva, it becomes such a cocktail that the party sweeps Hindi belts and it happened in Madhya Pradesh.
Though the Congress initially claimed to win 150 seats in Madhya Pradesh, it faced setbacks, leading only in the early ballot count and trailing consistently from the first round. The results have not only sent a shockwave among the workers but have also prompted the leadership of the Congress party to introspect on their policies and strategies for the general elections next year.
While Kamal Nath won the Chhindwara assembly seat with 36,594 votes, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan won his Budhni assembly seat with 104,974 votes. Interestingly, the Home Minister Narottam Mishra lost the Datia assembly seat with 7742 votes to Congress’s Bharti Rajendra.
Disappointing performance by Congress
The party workers gathered in large numbers around a strong room in the old jail of Bhopal to monitor the ballot count. As the BJP workers rejoiced with early leads, losing all hope the Congress workers began leaving in resentment of an unexpected loss. The Bharatiya Janata Party secured 163 seats out of 230 in the state assembly elections, while the Congress Party won 66 seats. The Bharat Adivasi Party won one seat. The BJP obtained a 48.56% vote share surpassing the Congress which stood at 40.40%.
The Congress won 114 seats in the 2018 elections, securing 40.89% of the vote share. The BJP secured 41.02% of the vote share.
The people of Madhya Pradesh, who desired change, were disheartened by the Congress’ poor performance. “Kamal Nath is the leader of the air conditioned room. How many times did he engage with the public? He left Bhopal a week before the elections and returned only to mark his presence on the stage when Rahul Gandhi arrived. He did not participate in the roadshow. Now people will suffer because of his over-confidence. How long will Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh lead the Congress in Madhya Pradesh? They are ineffective,” reacted Alam, an educationist.
After losing the elections, the sentiment of anger toward the Congress Party was greater among the people for shattering their hopes. “What I have understood from these results is that the majority community only votes for Hindutva. Nothing else matters to them,” commented Shadma.
The sole concern for elderly people was a more unsafe environment and communalism against Muslims. “They will not let us live peacefully. The results show that these elections were not Congress versus BJP and unfortunately Hindus against Muslims,” said Sajid Khan.
Congress Leaders’ Embrace of Soft Hindutva Over Secularism Proves Fatal
Senior Journalist Shams Ur Rehman Alavi in conversation with eNewsroom questioned The Congress’s strategy of adopting a soft Hindutva approach. He questioned how soft Hindutva can work for a party when hard Hindutva is the forte of another. It’s falling into a trap, following the other, not doing anything unique, but rather imitating and playing weak on the other’s strong pitch.
“Congress failed to assess public mood and Shivraj Chouhan’s emotional appeals in rallies, his utmost humility apart from hard work in crisscrossing the state during the campaign, paid off.”
“Congress didn’t have any idea about people’s pulse and could not establish a connection with citizens despite anti-incumbency. It could not throw any idea that could make voters excited or drawn towards it. The party campaign was directionless and the think tank didn’t seem to listen to voices outside its ecosystem. Kamal Nath is neither as humble nor a good orator and has little appeal outside Chhindwara. He failed and it has been a true disaster,” commented Alavi.
Ignoring Muslims was not beneficial
Like Alavi, others also seem disappointed with the Congress’s performance. However, the result was expected for Anas Ali of the Barkatullah Youth Forum. He said that the people of Madhya Pradesh have proved to the entire nation that the grand old party cannot defeat BJP in a direct fight. We cannot blame EVM for the landslide victory of the BJP. It is for Congress to accept that they fail to appease the majority community and do not get their votes.
“The Ladli Behna Yojna is just an excuse to justify their failure. The results make it clear that it is impossible to defeat the BJP in the Hindi belt,” said Ali.
He added that there are many constituencies with Muslim voters above fifty thousand where Congress has failed to shift Hindu voters. “There are sixty to seventy thousand Muslim voters in Narela constituency voting for Congress. But the party failed to get even twenty to thirty thousand votes from the majority community. Even after ignoring Muslims by separating and not mentioning them in the party manifesto, the Congress lost badly. There is no difference between soft and hardcore Hindutva- it is one,” said Ali
Incumbent MLA from Narela constituency Vishwas Sarang won with 24,569 votes defeating Congress’ Manoj Shukla. Sarang is also the Medical Education and Gas Relief and Rehabilitation Minister in Madhya Pradesh.
While the BJP did not give a single ticket to any Muslim candidate, the Congress gave only two tickets to Arif Masood from the Bhopal Madhya constituency and Atif Aqueel from the Bhopal Uttar constituency. Both of whom have won with good margins.
Congress’ non-Muslim votes transferred to BJP
Mohammad Mahir of the Muslim Vikas Parishad said that instead of presenting themselves better, the Congress chose to stick with Hindutva, especially Kamal Nath who failed to connect with the workers on the ground. They attempted to satisfy the angry workers with positions in the PCC (Pradesh Congress Committee). It did not help without proper connections and contact with workers.
“The ticket distribution played a major factor in these results, the party did not learn from the past and repeated similar mistakes. Hence, history is repeated. In a few constituencies like Burhanpur, the Congress’s non-Muslim vote transferred to the BJP, which is doing majoritarian politics,” stated Mahir.
There was a demand for a Muslim candidate from the Burhanpur assembly seat ignored by the Congress Party and given a ticket to the controversial Thakur Surendra Singh against BJP’s Archana Didi. The AIMIM (All India Madjil-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen) observed the benefit of a large number of Muslim voters and nominated Nafees Mansha from there.
BJP’s Archana Didi defeated the Congress candidate with 31171 votes. A former BJP worker Harshvardhan Nand Kumar Singh Chouhan had filed for nomination as an independent candidate and got 35,435 votes. Nafees Mansha secured 33,853 votes.
According to Mahir, Indore-1, Indore-5, Jaora, Jabalpur East, Ujjain Uttar, Sironj have considerable Muslim votes that could be given to Muslim candidates by Congress. “They lectured so much about the winnability ratio and yet lost,” he quipped.
Congress lost all these seats except Jabalpur East. Lakhan Ghangoria defeated BJP’s Anchal Sonkar with 27,741 votes.
Mahir added that after Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh is a laboratory for the right-wing party. They had to secure victory anyway. Nationalism, Hindutva, and ‘freebies’ in terms of Ladli Behna Yojna have worked here.