Congress victory in Jhabua shatters BJP leaders’ dream

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N D Sharma
N D Sharma
is a senior journalist, and Patron of eNewsroom India.

With Congress candidate Kantilal Bhuria’s victory in Jhabua (ST) Assembly constituency in Madhya Pradesh, the dream of BJP leaders Gopal Bhargava and Kailash Vijayvargiya has been shattered. The by-election in Jhabua was necessitated by the resignation of BJP’s G S Damor on his election to Lok Sabha early this year. Jhabua had elected a BJP candidate in 2013 and then in 2018 also.

The BJP had made it a prestige contest and was determined to retain Jhabua seat at any cost. The party fielded Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) leader Bhanu Bhuriya in the by-election and the party’s State unit’s top brass campaigned for him.

The Congress chose veteran party leader and former Union Minister Kantilal Bhuria to wrest the seat on which BJP’s Damor had defeated Kantilal Bhuria’s son, Vikrant Bhuria (Congress), in the November 2018 Assembly elections. For Congress, winning in Jhabua was not only a prestige issue but a necessity also. Congress does not enjoy a majority in the Assembly. So, every MLA counts. Kantilal Bhuria’s victory does not give it an absolute majority to the party but takes it to the half-way mark in a House of 230.

BJP leaders, particularly Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Gopal Bhargava and the party’s national General Secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, had told the Jhabua voters at campaign rallies that the victory of the BJP candidate would end the Congress ‘misrule’ in the State. Bhargava had gone to the extent of announcing that if the BJP candidate won in Jhabua, the Congress government of Kamal Nath would collapse and the BJP government led by Shivraj Singh Chouhan would take its place.

Kamal Nath’s strategy paid. Kantilal Bhuria was elected with the biggest ever margin of 27,804 votes. Out of the total 1, 72,354 votes polled, he received 96,155 votes as against Bhanu Bhuriya’s 68, 351. There were three intendents also but they did not get many votes, in fact, with 3088 votes, NOTA emerged at the third place.

The Congress campaign in Jhabua was handled by Chief Minister Kamal Nath himself. He decided who of the party leaders and ministers should address the election rallies there. More importantly, he had mollified dissident party leader Xavier Meda who had contested as an independent in the last Assembly elections and made a substantial dent in the Congress vote causing the defeat of Congress candidate Vikrant Bhuria and victory of BJP’s Damor. This time Meda appeared to have worked hard for the victory of Kantilal Bhuria.

Kamal Nath’s strategy paid. Kantilal Bhuria was elected with the biggest ever margin of 27,804 votes. Out of the total 1, 72,354 votes polled, he received 96,155 votes as against Bhanu Bhuriya’s 68, 351. There were three intendents also but they did not get many votes, in fact, with 3088 votes, NOTA emerged at the third place.

Bhuria is quite senior in the organisation. He has been five times MP, a Union Minister and the PCC chief as well. He is, however, a person of mild manners, neither demanding nor assertive and should be happy with whatever Kamal Nath decides for him — a berth in the cabinet or the post of PCC chief which Kamal Nath was asked to hold till a new incumbent was found.

He was PCC chief when a by-election for Jabera Assembly constituency in Damoh district was held in 2011. It was a Congress seat held by former Minister Ratnesh Solomon whose death had caused the by-election. The Congress fielded his 26-year-old daughter Tanya Solomon, a medical practitioner. The party, under the leadership of PCC chief Bhuria, worked hard. Still, Tanya lost. A rattled Bhuria burst out that he had received reports about a senior party leader having sabotaged the party prospects. Not only that, Bhuria also stated that some Congress leaders had for five or six years been working in conjunction with the ruling BJP leaders for furthering their own interests and jeopardising the interests of the Congress party. He promised that action would be initiated against them. He could not muster enough courage to initiate action against them.

 

Views expressed here, are  author’s personal opinion.

N D Sharma
N D Sharma
is a senior journalist, and Patron of eNewsroom India.

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