he verdict in the state assembly elections in three States of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh that went against the BJP should not be taken as a negative sign for the BJP in the next year’s general elections to Lok Sabha. Contrary to opinions and comments being offered by political commentators, the BJP has reason to smile though it may sound bizarre when I use this word ‘smile’ when we have lost the elections in three States. One should not forget that 15 years of incumbency is something that is not easy to defend no matter how good work the government has done. In Delhi, Sheila Dixit who did good work in Delhi was defeated after being in office for three terms at the hands of Aam Aadmi Party.
The poll results were on the expected lines. If there was an element of surprise, it was in Chhattisgarh where the BJP was routed. Why it is a surprise for me and many others because I visited the state in September last and went to the nerve center of Naxalites — Dantewada in Bastar. Raman Singh did commendable work by linking the forest areas of Bastar with metalled road despite heavy odds. The Maoists would blow the structure of culverts and bridges at the construction stage. The armed Naxalites killed engineers and threatened contractors to flee. Yet, the bridges were laid and road built.
The orphDantewadadren of Dantewada who lost their parents in Naxal attacks have been provided free residential school facilities. A steel plant and a Medical College and Hospital dot the skyline of Bastar. The road communication is excellent in the state. Yet, Raman Singh Government lost. What could be the reasons for the defeat of BJP? One reason that comes to my mind is Rahul Gandhi’s promise to waive agriculture loan of farmers in the state if voted to power. The Congress President also promised to give raised Minimum Support Price for crops. The second factor could be tireless work of the Congress President of Chhatisgarh Bhupesh Baghel who has been touring Chhattisgarh from the last five years raising the voice of rural population. Rural distress added to the woes of the BJP in the polls.
Now come to Rajasthan. For the past 25 years, Rajasthan opted for change of government every five years. This time, it was the turn of the BJP government to be replaced by Congress, the Congress won and BJP got defeated. But it was not a clean sweep by the Congress which managed to get just 100 seats, the bare minimum majority mark to form the government.
Pollsters have predicted that the election verdict will affect the performance of the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections. Let me remind the analysts that in 1998 State Assembly Election in Rajasthan, the Congress had won a landslide victory by bagging 153 seats of the total of 200 seats in the House. The BJP had won just 33 seats in 1998.
After a year when Lok Sabha elections were held in 1999 under the leadership of Atal Behari Vajpayee, the BJP won 16 of the 25 Lok Sabha seats in Rajasthan, 9 seats went to Congress.
It is too premature to predict that the Lok Sabha results in 2019 would have a bearing of the verdict of 2018 in three States of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. The state assembly elections and the general election to Lok Sabha are contested on different platforms.
Credit goes to Shivraj Singh Chouhan for giving a sleepless night to the Congress on the counting day. In a see-saw battle, the Congress failed to reach the majority mark of 116 MLAs at the end of the counting. Congress won 114 seats and the BJP won 109 seats just short of 5 seats from the Congress. There is not much of difference in the share of votes between the BJP and the Congress. How one can interpret the BJP defending 15 years of incumbency gallantly. It was the performance of the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh that made the voters of the state stand behind Chouhan. The victory margin of the Congress candidates was narrow. No winner in the polls from either side of the contestants could get 50 thousand vote margin of victory.
Rahul Gandhi acknowledged ‘the good work done by the BJP government in three States’.
Reacting to the outcome of the verdict in elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said victory and defeat are an integral part of life. He congratulated Congress and said, “We accept the people’s mandate with humility”. He said the family of BJP ‘karyakartas’ worked day and night for the state elections.
(The writer is a Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha)
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