Electoral Politics in Madhya Pradesh: Explaining the BJP Consolidation

Published date01 December 2014
AuthorYatindra Singh Sisodia
Date01 December 2014
Subject MatterArticles
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Artic y-Madr
Global Thr
asa-Mullah Complex
Electoral Politics in Madhya Pradesh:
Studies in Indian Politics
2(2) 203–214
Explaining the BJP Consolidation
© 2014 Lokniti, Centre for the
Study of Developing Societies
SAGE Publications
Los Angeles, London,
New Delhi, Singapore,
Washington DC
Yatindra Singh Sisodia
DOI: 10.1177/2321023014551876
Two important elections held in close succession—the December 2013 Assembly elections and the
May 2014 Lok Sabha elections—in the state of Madhya Pradesh emphatically underline the consolida-
tion achieved by the BJP. Overriding anti-incumbency, the Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led BJP government
in the state returned to power and rode on the crest of the popularity of the state chief minister and
the BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi to put up a creditable performance in the Lok
Sabha elections. The BJP was helped by strong anti-incumbency against the UPA, on the one hand, and
the organizational ineffectiveness of the Congress party at the state level, on the other. This article
attempts an analysis of the factors and forces that contributed to the BJP consolidating its position in
the state in the recent years.
Madhya Pradesh (MP), BJP, Congress, Modi, government performance
The electoral politics of Madhya Pradesh has largely witnessed a two-party competition ever since
the Janata Party and later the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) challenged the Congress domination of
politics in the state. With its sizable population of backward communities, particularly the Scheduled
Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs), governments led either by the Congress or the BJP have
focused on state-sponsored social reforms and welfare schemes. This has often addressed the aspirations
of the backward and marginalized sections of the population (Gupta, 2005). Further, the state of Madhya
Pradesh is a classic example of the thesis of stable two-party political competition (Yadav and Palshikar,
2009). The elections of last two decades are testimony to this fact of party political competition.
This article makes an attempt to analyze the state’s electoral politics in the context of the outcomes of
Assembly elections 2013 and Lok Sabha elections 2014, to examine the nature and structure of the party
competition in the state and underscore the clear consolidation of its power and position by the BJP. The
BJP’s ‘hat trick’ of Assembly election victories and creditable performance in successive Lok Sabha
elections in the state, indicates the clear electoral marginalization of the Congress which has had to face
three consecutive Assembly election defeats after having been in power for a decade. In their analysis of
the BJP victory in the Assembly elections of December 2013 in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan
and Chhattisgarh, Verma et al. conclude that the popular perception of the good performance of state
governments and the poor image of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government contributed
Yatindra Singh Sisodia, Professor, Madhya Pradesh Institute of Social Science Research, 6, Bharatpuri
Administrative Zone, Ujjain 456010 (MP), E-mail: yatindra15@yahoo.com
India Quarterly, 66, 2 (2010): 133–149


Yatindra Singh Sisodia
significantly to the BJP victory in Madhya Pradesh (Verma et al., 2014). This article carries forward
that analysis and focuses especially on the BJP consolidation in Madhya Pradesh (MP) following the
Lok Sabha elections of 2014.
Indications from the Electoral Campaign
The consolidation by the BJP was evident in the run-up to the Assembly elections of 2013. Madhya
Pradesh went to the polls to elect its new 230-member Legislative Assembly on 25 November 2013. The
BJP had won the previous two Assembly elections and was hoping for an unprecedented third victory. In
2003, the BJP had ridden the crest of a wave dominated by the promise of bijli/sadak/pani (electricity/
roads/water) (Manor, 2004). Five years later, in 2008, the BJP returned to power on account of the failure
of the Congress opposition to mobilize the voters on the one hand and the voters’ satisfaction with the
incumbent government on the other (Shankar and Sisodia, 2009). As the BJP completed a decade in
power, Shivraj Singh Chouhan had served for eight of those 10 years as the chief minister. His personal
popularity and leadership style appeared to have produced a favourable image of the government. His
ability to connect with the people and respond to the expectations of different segments of society and to
initiate important policies/programmes did play a crucial role in bolstering the image of the party and the
The BJP strategy in the 2013 Assembly elections was visibly clear. They went into the poll projecting
Shivraj Singh Chouhan as the face of the party (Sisodia, 2014). On the other hand, the Congress party
was unable to project a leader as their chief ministerial candidate and an alternative to Chouhan. It must
be stressed that when the Congress has been in power earlier, their Chief Minister Digvijay Singh led
the party from the front and was clearly the face of the party at the state level. The BJP was thus able to
consolidate its position and gain an important head start in the campaign by leading in the ‘leadership
While the consolidation by the BJP in Madhya Pradesh is directly linked to the concrete measures
that it took as a ruling party to assert its political and electoral presence, it was immensely helped by the
manner in which its principal political rival, the Congress, approached the electoral/political contest.
The factionalism within the Congress and incessant in-fighting throughout the 10 years of sitting in the
opposition saw no sign of abating as the elections approached. Important leaders of the party from the
state, had come to play a major role in national politics. This included stalwarts like Digvijay Singh,
Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia. Each led a separate faction at the state level. This created a near
‘quota’ system when distributing political benefits (party positions, selection of candidates for Lok
Sabha, Assembly and even local body elections). The party at the state level functioned not as a single
well-knit organization but as distinct factions. Though the national level Congress leaders did project a
show of unity by holding joint rallies during the election campaign; that unity did not percolate down
to the state-level leaders and party workers. At the ground, the party still remained badly divided and
spoke in multiple voices conveying different political messages to the public. The late elevation of
Jyotiraditya Scindia as the Chief of the Congress Campaign Committee did energize the rank and file
of the party to some extent, as he was capable of drawing large crowds at his rallies. It however came
too late in the day and was not able to bridge the divide that ran deep within the party. Like the trend has
always been, this time also, there was more than one aspirant for the party ticket from all Assembly
constituencies. Party Vice President Rahul Gandhi, during his visit to address the party workers at
Studies in Indian Politics, 2, 2 (2014): 203–214

Electoral Politics in Madhya Pradesh 205
Mohankheda (Dhar) in April 2013,1 categorically mentioned that factionalism was one of the main pro-
blems plaguing the party and assured everyone that the voice of ordinary workers would be heard at the
time of ticket distribution for the Assembly elections. He also mentioned that the party candidates would
be finalized much prior to the elections. Both promises were not met. Though the Congress focused its
election campaign on the issues of corruption, the...

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