The fall of a seemingly stable Kamal Nath government effected by at least 22 Jyotiraditya Scindia loyalists and factional bickering points to a widening chasm between the Congress and voters in Madhya Pradesh, who are pining for the BJP, whose 15-year-long rule, though marred by scams, at least gave them a sturdy regime.

Far from being viewed as a villain amid Congress accusations of horse-trading, the BJP has instead bounced back in popularity, from caving in to anti-incumbency during the 2018 Vidhan Sabha election, yet securing a marginal vote percentage more than the Congress. “There is no sympathy left for Mr. Nath,” said Yatindra Singh Sisodia, director, Madhya Pradesh Institute of Social Science Research. “The prevailing sentiment is he couldn’t even run a smooth government and stave off offensives.”

Ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the Congress’s popularity was on the wane within just three-four months of coming to power. “Voters cited failure to keep loan waiver promise to farmers within 10 days and frequent power cuts as the major reasons,” said Mr. Sisodia, part of the CSDS-Lokniti survey team then.

Yet, the party nurses hope of retaining at least more than half of its 23 seats, let alone the BJP’s two erstwhile seats, that will go to byelection soon. “Mr. Scindia, along with his flock, will lend the BJP weight in the Gwalior-Chambal region where the Congress is bound to confront a political vacuum there post-defection,” he explained. And the BJP cadre locally will adjust to their former political rivals, he added, once the top leadership directs. In the region, the Congress had won 26 out of 34 seats in 2018.

Meanwhile, going by the law of averages, said Rasheed Kidwai, visiting fellow, Observer Research Foundation, the best the Congress could hope for is to retain half of the seats. “Although the rebels have not joined the BJP yet, by quitting the government, their Congress chapter is closed for now at least,” he explained. “The BJP in any case boasts a vibrant lot in the region. Fearing loss of relevance, BJP workers there will not abandon a strong bastion to switch over.”

Mr. Kidwai hinted at a mass exodus from the Congress, however, after the BJP government was sworn in. “When a new government comes in, there will be a natural attraction towards it. Other factions, including social groups, may move towards the BJP. It will be more difficult for the Congress to keep the house in order,” he said. During the recent crisis, independent MLA and Minister Pradeep Jaiswal had said he would side with whichever party remained in power, while Mr. Scindia’s spokesman Pankaj Chaturvedi had insinuated that 40 Congress MLAs would eventually switch over.

The backing of two BSP and an SP MLA to the Congress was on a shaky footing too, as they were not bound by individual commitments, Mr. Sisodia pointed out.

During the Vidhan Sabha election, the Congress emerged victor due to the BJP’s election mismanagement and not because of its virtue and the anti-incumbency factor, said Girija Shanker, Bhopal-based political analyst. “With the BJP in power, it would have an edge in the byelection as well.”

News Source: The Hindu


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