Buoyed by its performance in the Assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh, Congress now hopes to perform well in the general elections too.
There are several reasons why Congress is poised to do well in Madhya Pradesh. Congress’ performance was too bad in the Lok Sabha elections 2014, and it could win just two seats–Guna and Chhindwara out of 29.
It was a disastrous performance and after hitting nadir, the number of seats in 2019 will definitely be higher—this is something not just political watchers but even the BJP leaders privately accept.
Of course, there are factors including regional voting patterns and caste-community angle that will determine how many seats Congress is going to win. Let’s discuss the factors now.
Firstly, Congress has done exceedingly well on tribal-dominated seats in the Assembly elections that were held in November 2018.
An analysis of the victory on Assembly seats show that out of 47 reserved seats for Scheduled Tribes, BJP earlier had 32 and Congress 14 in 2013 but in the recent Assembly polls, there was a complete reversal as BJP could win just 15 out them and Congress won 31 (one seat going to independent).
Hence, Congress is likely to perform better on Tribal seats in Lok Sabha as well. Right now, the tribal voters’ return to Congress is the biggest worry for BJP.
Secondly, a part of Dalit vote has also gone back to Congress, especially in Gwalior-Chambal region that had seen violence during protests over the issue of reservations for Scheduled Castes, last year.
Among the 35 SC reserved seats in MP Assembly, BJP earlier had a clear majority as it had won 28 seats in 2013 and Congress could get just 4. But, this changed significantly. Now, BJP has 18 and Congress has 17 seats reserved for STs.
While BJP draws its strength from Malwa-Nimar region in Western MP, the pattern in Assembly election showed that on Dalit and Tribal dominated seats here, it fared badly.
Thirdly, the impact of farmers’ loan waiver is likely to help Congress. Though there have been problems in implementation and BJP has not missed any opportunity in training its guns on the ruling party on this issue, the farmers still seem to be soft towards the new regime.
Those with smaller loans have indeed got relief. Others too are expecting that after repeated assurance of party leaders, the money would come to their accounts, sooner or later.
The Congress state leadership has repeatedly claimed that it has fulfilled most of its election promises. These include decisions like weekly off to policemen that has sent a positive message to nearly 1 lakh households (policemen’s families). Party hopes to capitalize on the goodwill generated by such decisions.
The fourth factor is that there is a strong anti-incumbency against the BJP’s sitting MPs and though party plans to change such candidates, this factor will still work. Also, disgruntled BJP leaders and sitting MPs who are not being fielded again, can harm the party’s prospects—some are already in talks with Congress.
Still, BJP hopes that in Lok Sabha it will do better compared to MP Assembly election. The fifth factor is that apart from Western MP and the tribal districts near Mahakoshal region, Congress appears set to win a few seats in Gwalior-Chambal as well as Vindhya region also.
Though in Assembly polls Congress faced unexpected losses in Vindhya, it is likely to win seat(s) here too. Former CM Arjun Singh’s son Ajay Singh contests from here and in 2014, he had lost by a small margin.
Saffron strength: Constituencies that elect BJP MPs
What is comforting for the BJP is that it has consistently won more seats than Congress in Madhya Pradesh.
In fact, there are 10 seats where BJP is always confident of victory. It has been winning them for well over two decades. They include Indore, Vidisha, Bhind, Damoh, Bhopal and Betul. Other seats that BJP as been winning over a long period include Jabalpur, Sagar and Morena.
The challenge is for Congress is to do well on these seats. The party has fielded Digvijaya Singh from Bhopal, hoping to end BJP’s long reign in the state capital. BJP does not want to lose many seats in MP.
On the other hand, Congress has managed to form the government in Madhya Pradesh after 15 years and party leaders feel that the wind is blowing in their favour but the reality is that it was a tight contest and BJP’s vote share was slightly ahead of Congress in Assembly polls.
In 2014, only Jyotiraditya Scindia and Kamal Nath could win their seats during the Modi wave. Later, a by-election on Jhabua seat that Congress won with a handsome margin, energized the party cadre. So Congress had 3 MPs from state against 26 BJP members from Madhya Pradesh in Lok Sabha.
The Congress leaders are optimistic that the party will have advantage on most of the reserved seats. They feel that the realistically the challenge is first to get to the double digit mark–win at least ten seats, and hope to go past it.
Performance of BSP, GGP will affect Congress
Can Congress touch the double digit or get close to the halfway mark? Some leaders feel that this is attainable and remind that in 2009, 12 MPs were elected from the state on Congress ticket.
It is often said that irrespective of party affiliation, a section of electorate often votes on national issues while exercising franchise in the Lok Sabha election. MP has 29 seats and both the parties have their eyes set on the state.
BJP doesn’t want Congress to go past 6-8 seats. The Bahujan Samaj Party’s (BSP) performance would also be an important factor and if its candidates do well on a few seats, then Congress may suffer.
Till now, Congress hasn’t had any understanding with Gondwana Gantantra Party either. As far as BJP is concerned, it doesn’t want to go below the figure of 20 as this will hurt its chances of forming government at the Centre.