Cong leaders’ unity led to Ater victory
Though the Congress could retain Ater with a narrow margin of three digits it is being regarded as a trend setter for the Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections scheduled to be held next year sometime in the month of November.
Two by-elections were held in Madhya Pradesh. In both the by-elections both Congress and BJP retained their seats which they won in the 2013 Assembly elections.
The BJP retained Bandhavgarh seat with a big margin. A newspaper reported Bandhavgarh victory with the headline "BJP roars in Bandhavgarh gets 50 percent votes". In 2013 BJP had won the tribal-dominated seat by 18,694 votes but this time BJP candidate Shivanrayan Singh improved the victory margin by over 35%. Congress's Savitri Singh could poll only 48,880 votes to Singh's 74,356(54.95%). Some 2.36% voters opted for "NOTA" (None of the Above). The bye-election was necessitated due to the resignation of sitting BJP MLA Gyan Singh, who was elected to Lok Sabha in November from Shahdol.
Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh had camped at Bandhavgarh for a day and addressed two election rallies in support of Savitri, but that seems to have had no impact on the voters. Chief Minister Shivarj Singh Chouhan had campaigned intensively here, stressing on his development schemes, and this evidently clicked. The CM had toured Bandhavgarh extensively.
As the results for Bandhavrarh were declared early in the afternoon, after three hours of counting, chief minister Chouhan congrarulated the workers saying it was the victory of the hard work by grassroots workers.
"I thank the people of Bandhavarh for making Shivnarayan Singh victorious in the bypoll. This is the result of dedication and hard work by our workers. The victory of Bandhavgarh has given us new energy to keep the wheel of development moving in the state" said Chouhan. BJP state chief Nandkumar Singh also congratulated party workers for the massive win in Bandhavgarh.
But much more significance is being given to the Ater victory. This seat fell vacant because of the death of Satya Dev Katare, Leader of the Opposition (Congress). The Congress sponsored his son Hemant Katare who after a very tough contest won the seat. Even the counting of votes of Ater was marked by anxiety and suspense. In Bandhavgarh counting was over in three hours, buth Ater was a 10 hour marathon, punctuated with interruptions for "techinical reasons".
Sources said the Election Commission was extra cautious owing to the sensitivity of Ater and the violence that broke out on the voting day. The commission double checked before announcing the score of every round.
The numbers see-sawed all the day and the battle went down to the last round-the 21st. Katare's fortune turned in the fourth round when BJP's lead shrunk to 513 votes. From here BJP started losing the grip over the lead. After 18 rounds Katare was leading by almost 7,000 votes.
Katare, who was hoping to ride the sympathy wave, suddenly had the wind sucked out of his sails and BJP sniffed a chance. BJP won the last round-bagging 2,610 votes to Congress' 619-but Katare scraped through by just 857 votes. Katare polled 59,228 votes (48.01%) in all while BJP's Bhadoria got 58,371(47.31%).
Ater is regarded as a trend setter but also left a very crucial lesson to be learnt by the Congress. Ater proved that unity at the top and also at the ground level always gives positive results.
Ater assembly by-poll indicates that mission 2018 assembly elections will not be a bed of roses for the ruling party in the state. Depending on two factors, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan's charisma and more importantly "brand Modi" the safforn party has managed to put up an impressive show at elections over the years. Though too early to predict on the basis of a solitary win for the Congress in the last 17 months, it may not be a smooth sail for the BJP as has been the case in the past.
"Ater has set a benchmark for Congress" said senior leader Jyotiraditya Scindia adding that in the last nine years Chambal region has won three by-polls which normally goes to the ruling party. Scindia said that the victory is the collective effect of the party and he himself is all prepared to take up the challenge of taking Congress ahead from here. When asked about his chances of being projected as a campaigner for the 2018 elections, he said he was a soldier of the party and was ready to take up any responsibility entrusted to him. A possible change and a new strategy is in the offing indicate sources at the AICC.
The Ater defeat was not taken sportingly by the local BJP workers. Some of them lost their cool and attacked media persons who were standing just outside the counting centre. Trouble broke out when it was announced that Bhadoria has lost the election to Congress candidate. While coming out of the counting centre, supporters of Bhadoria raised slogans against the election commission and media. When media persons stepped forward to get the reaction of Bhadoria following his defeat his supporters allegedly pounced on their cameras while holding them responsible for their leader's defeat. They even forced Bhadoria not to give any statement and took him out of the premises. Bhadoria however intervened and asked his supporters to refrain from raising slogans against the media.
While Bhadoria supporters were insulting media persons a Scindia fan approached them and stated that this area is a Scindia bastion and Chief Minister Chouhan dared to make insinuation against Scindia family which proved very costly to him and obviously one of the factors responsible for the BJP defeat. (IPA)