The stunning electoral outcome of 3-0 in the Hindi heartland puts the BJP miles ahead of the Opposition in the run-up to the 2024 election
New Delhi: It was the BJP’s big day on Sunday. Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat in both Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and trouncing the Congress in Rajasthan, the saffron party once again proved that it remained unassailable in the central and northern parts of India. The stunning electoral outcome of 3-0 in the Hindi heartland puts the BJP miles ahead of the Opposition in the run-up to the 2024 general election. The results again indicated that the “Modi magic” continued unabated. The counting for Mizoram will be held on Monday.
While chants of “Hindi heartland Modified” echoed in the saffron corridors, an eerie silence prevailed in the Congress camp.
Reeling under complete annihilation in the Hindi heartland, the Congress is trying to find solace in its lone electoral triumph in Telangana. Even in Telangana, the BJP has made inroads by managing to secure considerable leads in at least eight Assembly berths. With the BRS facing defeat, BJP spin doctors have begun work to eat into the space left out by the regional party and eventually emerge as the main Opposition to the Congress in Telangana, sources said.
The BJP was heading towards a landslide victory in Madhya Pradesh by leading in 164 out of 230 seats. The Congress was struggling at 66. Of the 199 seats for which voting was held in Rajasthan, the BJP was leading in 116 seats, compared to 69 for the Congress. The BJP stunned the political pundits in Chhattisgarh by leading in 54 of 90 seats. With only 33 seats, the Congress was lagging way behind. In Chhattisgarh, the BJP’s vote share went up by a huge 13 per cent and it gained 39 berths. While the BJP had managed only 33 per cent of the vote share in 2018 in Chhattisgarh, it clocked 46 per cent in the recent polls. It may be recalled that even after losing in the Hindi heartland in 2018, the BJP had managed to bag 303 seats on its own in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Following its stellar performance in these polls, the BJP “will eye at least 400 seats” with a slogan: “Ab ki bar 400 paar”. As the South remained solidly with the INDIA alliance, the BJP will now be targeting the states in the northern and western parts of the country for the Lok Sabha polls next year.
With the BJP heading towards victory in three of the four states that went to the polls, the party will now be in power in 12 states on its own, while the Congress, the second largest national party, will come down to three after losing Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. After ousting its rivals from the central and northern parts of the country, the Prime Minister took the social media route and stated: “The results in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan indicate that the people of India are firmly with the politics of good governance and development, which the @BJP4India stands for… I thank the people of these states for their unwavering support and assure them that we will keep working tirelessly for their well-being. A special thanks to the hardworking party karyakartas. Each of them is exemplary! They have worked tirelessly and highlighted our development agenda among the people.”
Reaching out to people in Telangana, the Prime Minister, in a post on X, said: “My dear sisters and brothers of Telangana… Thank you for your support to the @BJP4India. Over the last few years, this support has only been increasing and this trend will continue in the times to come. Our bond with Telangana is unbreakable and we will keep working for the people. I also appreciate the industrious efforts of each and every BJP karyakarta.”
Till a few months back, almost all the polls had predicted a comfortable victory for the Congress in Chhattisgarh and a huge opportunity to return to power in Madhya Pradesh. Led by Congress leader Kamal Nath, the party tried to take on the BJP by unleashing a massive Hindutva campaign. Besides describing himself as a “Hanuman bhakt”, the Congress’ chief ministerial face went on to say that with “82 per cent Hindus, we are already a Hindu Rashtra”. The Congress’ Hindutva card eventually collapsed.
Meanwhile, with a huge electoral victory, Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan not only decimated the Opposition and the “änti-incumbency” notion, but also silenced the critics within his own party. Besides attracting a lion's share of the women’s vote, tribals and OBCs seemed to have voted en masse for the BJP. Led by Mr Chouhan, the BJP seems to have swept the Chhindwara region, the bastion of Mr Kamal Nath. However, the main target of Mr Chouhan had been women voters in the state. Of 2.72 crore women in MP, 76 per cent came out to vote this time.
Following this stupendous win, all the talk of replacing Mr Chouhan have now receded into the background. With this victory, Mr Chouhan could be heading for a fifth term as the chief minister. Stepping out after the party marched way ahead of the Congress during the day, Mr Chouhan told the media: “Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji is in the hearts of the people of Madhya Pradesh. The state is also in the heart of Modi ji.”
In an attempt to analyse this dismal performance, some Congress leaders felt that “over-confidence” and “failure to hold on to its tribal and backward vote banks” resulted in its shocking defeat in Chhattisgarh. Not only did the BJP sweep the tribal-dominated Bastar region, it also ate into the vote share of the Janta Congress Chhattisgarh (JCC) and the BSP. The Congress also failed to match the BJP’s formidable electoral machinery and booth management.
In Rajasthan, the skirmishes between the two top Congress leaders, Mr Ashok Gehlot and Mr Sachin Pilot, eventually proved to be the party’s nemesis. Only during the end of the campaign, the Congress leadership somehow managed to persuade both Mr Gehlot and Mr Pilot to put up a united front. “It was too late by then”, a Congress functionary said. The electoral debacles in the Hindi heartland yet again put a question mark on the Congress leadership, particularly on the Gandhi clan. While Mr Rahul Gandhi repeatedly raised the issue of a caste census in Madhya Pradesh, the party had no OBC leader to showcase in the state. Both Mr Kamal Nath and Mr Digvjaya Singh belong to the upper castes.
However, some Congress leaders feel that the electoral defeat in the Hindi heartland may now help the party get rid of the old guard. The electoral defeats in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan will now bring the curtain down on 76-year-old Ashok Gehlot, 77-year-old Kamal Nath and 76-year-old Digvijaya Singh. It was argued that Mr Rahul Gandhi had managed to script a spectacular victory in Telangana, where he “did not have the baggage of the old guard”.
For the Congress, an improved performance in the Hindi heartland would have come as a significant electoral gain and positioned it as the natural leader of the INDIA alliance.