Congress’ victories in Kolaras and Mungaoli by-elections in Madhya Pradesh have come as a shot in the arm for the party that has been out of power in the state for almost 15 years. Congress leaders claim Kolaras and Mungaoli wins indicate the way the wind is blowing in the state.
Mahendra Singh Yadav of the Congress won the Kolaras bypoll by 8083 votes. The party got 82515 votes while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could bag 74432 votes. In Mungaoli, Bijendra Singh Yadav of Congress won by 2124 votes. BJP candidate Sahab Yadav got 68684 votes.
While the BJP has been in power in Madhya Pradesh since December 8, 2003, Shivraj Singh Chouhan became the chief minister on November 29, 2005. Under him the BJP has decimated the opposition in every election in the state. But a string of by-election losses in the last few months are now beginning to hurt him.
Chouhan led the BJP campaign in Kolaras as well as Mungaoli, well aware that any setback will lead to his rivals within and outside the BJP claiming that his charisma is on the wane. Chouhan made several promises during the campaign for the tribals as well as farmers in a bid to make a dent in the Congress citadel.
He announced that his government will provide Rs 1,000 monthly assistance to each Saharia tribal family in the two seats for tackling malnutrition. The Saharia tribes dominate in Kolaras and Mungaoli.
BJP leaders had also accused Congress leader and Guna MP Jyotiraditya Scindia of not doing enough in the two constituencies. Both Kolaras and Mungaoli come under Guna Lok Sabha constituency, Scindia’s traditional stronghold.
Scindia had managed to retain his seat even during the Narendra Modi wave in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections which saw the BJP winning 26 out of the 29 seats. The other constituencies where the Congress managed to win in 2014 are Chhindwara (Kamal Nath) and Ratlam(ST) (Kantilal Bhuria).
The two bypolls, held following to the death of sitting Congress MLAs Ram Singh Yadav (Kolaras) and Mahendra Singh Kalukheda (Mungaoli), have given a chance to the Congress to gauge the voters' mood even though both the seats were held by Congress.
Scindia, a close confidant of Congress president Rahul Gandhi, has been working in his home state for the last several years hoping to become its chief minister. Both the Assembly seats come under his Lok Sabha constituency and the wins have boosted his chances. Congress leaders claim the party's improved show in Gujarat Assembly elections along with the Chitrakoot bypolls win in November 2017 and the April 2017 victory in Ater Assembly constituency bode well for the party.
Congress win in the two seats also gives a chance to Scindia to unite the faction-ridden Congress unit in the state and mount a serious challenge to the BJP in the next Assembly elections which are due by the end of this year.
On the other hand, the anti-incumbency of 15 years will in all likelihood force the BJP to come up with a new and bold strategy to checkmate the Congress.