Congress on Wednesday managed to retain Mungaoli and Kolaras assembly seats in byelections in Madhya Pradesh — though with vastly reduced margins compared to the last polls — despite chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and the entire top rung of his cabinet camping in these constituencies for several days. However, in Odisha, Congress not only lost its sitting seat in the bypoll to the ruling BJD but was relegated to the third position after BJP.
Coming just a few months ahead of the assembly polls which are due in Madhya Pradesh in November, Chouhan had made the bypolls a prestige issue. As many as 21 of the total 36 ministers campaigned for several weeks in the two seats situated in the stronghold of Jyotiraditya Scindia, one of the aspirants in Congress for the CM’s post.
BJP came gut-wrenchingly close to snatching a win in these seats which are part of Scindia’s Lok Sabha seat, Guna. Congress’s vastly reduced victory margins — just 2,124 votes in Mungaoli and 8,083 in Kolaras, down from 20,765 and 24,952, respectively, in 2013 — indicate how BJP’s sheer organisational strength is a force to reckon with in the November polls. It’s also a pointer that Congress needs to get its flock together. While Chouhan was doing up to 12 roadshows a day, Scindia was left fighting a lone battle. Kamal Nath joined him on the very last day of campaigning.
The bypolls were billed as Shivraj vs Maharaj (Scindia) fight and the Guna MP single-handedly took on the entire might of a government entrenched for 13 years, the CM and his heavyweight ministers and BJP’s organizational strength. Congress workers celebrated the victories as a morale booster ahead of the big final. After the wins in Ater and Chitrakoot bypoll last year and strong showing in civic elections in Badwani-Dhar in January, Congress sees the Mungaoli and Kolaras victories as a sign of turnaround.
However, Chouhan told reporters in the assembly that BJP has fared much better in the bypolls compared to 2013. “These were Congress seats and the margin of victory has decreased. That too when BSP did not field its candidates and Congress benefited from it.”