The defeat of the BJP in the recently held by-election in the Chitrakoot Assembly seat in Madhya Pradesh is only symbolic, as it neither adds any seat to the present tally of the Congress, nor reduces the numbers for the BJP in the present Assembly. The seat was earlier held by the Congress after its victory in 2013 and it only managed to retain it.
But what this defeat does is demoralise the BJP workers as the chief minister himself had campaigned hard for the party’s candidate in the seat. On the other hand, this victory would certainly boost the morale and confidence of the Congress leaders and workers, which might help the party in the crucial Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh next year.
While every victory is crucial for the Congress, it should not be over-emphasised and should not be seen as an indicator of the BJP’s declining popularity.
This seat has been a stronghold of the Congress – it has won the Chitrakoot seat during the 1998, 2003 and 2013 Assembly elections by very large margins. It was only during the 2008 Assembly elections that the Congress lost this seat to the BJP, but by a very narrow margin. So this victory could at best be a consolation prize for the Congress in Madhya Pradesh.
Gurdaspur and Gujarat Trends a Bigger Cause for Worry
While the BJP may see this result as a continuation of the trend in the recent by-election results where the incumbent party managed to retain the seat, the results of the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha seat and trends visible in Gujarat, which goes to poll next month, should be a matter of concern for the BJP.
The BJP got badly defeated by the Congress by more than 1.8 lakh votes in the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha seat, which was earlier held by its popular MP Vinod Khanna. The ground report and the recent pre-poll survey conducted by the Lokniti-CSDS suggest the Congress is gaining momentum during the last three weeks of campaigning in Gujarat, and the BJP being put on the backfoot.
While the BJP may still be ahead of the Congress in the electoral race in Gujarat, if the Congress’ reported momentum continues for another three weeks, the party may be able to pull off a major upset in Gujarat after nearly two decades.
Unhappiness Over Demonetisation and GST
The Chitrakoot Assembly elections may not be a good indicator of the changing mood either of the people of Madhya Pradesh nor of India, but surveys conducted by the Lokniti-CSDS clearly suggest there is growing unhappiness of the people with the Narendra Modi government, mainly on account of implementation of two new policies, demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
The unhappiness over demonetisation and GST is turning traders away from the BJP in sizeable numbers across many states. The dismal performance on the issue of employment generation by the Narendra Modi government has also resulted in a sizeable portion of the youth turning their back on the BJP.
The defeat in Chitrakoot may not be a matter of big concern, but the dismal economic situation should certainly worry the BJP, as not only caste identities, but also economic issues shape voting choices.
(The writer is a Professor and Director of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS). This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)