The larger message from the results is that internal turmoil, unless handled soon, will hurt the party in the coming days.
NEW DELHI: The result of the civic bodies in Madhya Pradesh that were announced earlier this week has brought out in the open the internal rivalries among BJP leaders.
Out of the 16 municipal corporations in the state, BJP candidates won 9 seats, while 5 were won by Congress candidates, with one each being won by an AAP candidate and an Independent candidate who was a BJP rebel. The mayor seats that the BJP lost includes its bastions Gwalior, Jabalpur, Chhindwara apart from Singrauli. The first three were won by the Congress, while Singrauli was won by the AAP candidate. In the second phase, the BJP lost the mayor’s post in Morena, Rewa (both won by Congress candidates) and Katni (won by a BJP rebel).
Significantly, in the last such election, held in August 2017, the BJP had mayors in all the 16 corporations. The local body elections in the state were held in two phases, on 6 and 13 July. The significance of the BJP’s loss can be understood from the fact that Gwalior had a BJP mayor for the last 57 years, Rewa had a BJP mayor for 24 years, while Jabalpur had a BJP mayor for the last 18 years. More importantly, the BJP was able to retain the mayor seat in Ujjain, Satna and Burhanpur with a very slight majority. The mayors were elected through direct popular votes. It is pertinent to mention that the BJP has sent two party leaders (Narendra Singh Tomar and Jyotiraditya Scindia) from the Gwalior-Chambal region to the Union Cabinet and has nine ministers from the same region in the Shivraj Singh Chouhan cabinet and despite that, the party could not retain Gwalior and Morena. In both these seats, the party leadership was unable to strike a coordination between the “original” BJP leaders and those who have joined the BJP in March 2020 along with Scindia. Morena is also the hometown of state BJP president V.D. Sharma. Overall, the BJP won on 256 seats, including corporators and mayors, while the Congress won on 58 seats, a loss of 17 seats from which it had won in 2017. The BJP gained 98 seats from its 158 seats that it had won in 2107.
Region-wise, the BJP got zero of the three seats in Mahakaushal (Jabalpur region that has 8 districts), one of the three seats in Vindhya-Satpura region (Rewa, Satna and adjoining areas), two of the four seats in Gwalior-Chambal region, all four seats in the Malwa region (Indore and around) and all the two seats in the Nimar region (Barwani, Burhanpur, Dhar, Khargone). Party general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, who comes from Indore, a region where the party won all the four mayor seats, in an apparent dig against Scindia, said that it was “alarming” that the party had lost in the region despite the entry of the Scindia group into the party fold. He also said that the CM should trust the party cadre as much as he trusts the government officials, while referring to the “anomalies” in the voter rolls.
Vijayvargiya, who was seen as among the top contenders to replace Chouhan as the CM in case the party leadership decided to change the CM, now finds himself with no work and no prospects after the party’s debacle in West Bengal polls in May 2021, of which he was in-charge. Vijayvargiya was accused by West Bengal state party leaders of mishandling the elections. Vijayvargiya has not visited the state even once after the poll results despite still being in charge of the party affairs.
According to a senior party leader, the state president V.D. Sharma and CM Chouhan are finding it hard to ensure coordination between the leaders belonging to the Scindia camp and those who belong to the Narendra Singh Tomar camp. “Scindia wanted to give the Gwalior mayor ticket to the former minister and his maternal aunt Maya Singh, which Tomar and the CM did not agree to. Then the name of the wife of former Lok Sabha MP Anoop Mishra was suggested by Scinida; this, too, was not agreed to by the state leadership and ultimately, the candidate of Tomar was given the ticket. What happened after then is out in the public domain,” the party leader told The Sunday Guardian. Mishra, who is the nephew of former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, too, finds himself side-lined by the present state leadership that is composed of Tomar and CM Chouhan due to which he has shifted to the Scindia camp, the only other prominent group.
A party spokesperson, while referring to the statement made by Kailash Vijayvargiya, said that the media was wrongly interpreting his quote. “The party lost in Gwalior and Morena due to Scindia’s supporters not showing any enthusiasm to support the party candidate as both were from the rival Tomar group. This is a sort of curtain-raiser for the 2023 polls. The Scindia group will assert itself even more strongly then. The larger message from these results is that internal turmoil, unless handled soon, is going to hurt the party in the coming days,” he told The Sunday Guardian.