A look at the Modi-Chouhan influence on the BJP’s success in Madhya Pradesh

How much did the BJP’s decision to not project Shivraj Singh Chouhan as CM candidate impact the voter’s decision in the State?

December 07, 2023 01:46 am | Updated 01:47 am IST

Though the voters preferred Shivraj Singh Chouhan as the Chief Minister candidate, more than half of BJP’s voters felt that the lack of Mr. Chouhan’s presence in the campaign had no effect on their voting decision. File photo: X/@OfficeofSSC via ANI

Though the voters preferred Shivraj Singh Chouhan as the Chief Minister candidate, more than half of BJP’s voters felt that the lack of Mr. Chouhan’s presence in the campaign had no effect on their voting decision. File photo: X/@OfficeofSSC via ANI

Shivraj Singh Chouhan has been the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh since 2005, facing only a two-year hiccup in between. However, despite being the face of the BJP in Madhya Pradesh for almost two decades, it was clear that the party had sidelined the regional stalwart during the run-up to the State elections. As questions about who will be the next CM are debated, it is crucial to delve into the voter’s sentiments in the State regarding the shift away from Chouhan against the backdrop of Modi taking centre-stage in the election campaign.

According to the Lokniti-CSDS survey, though the voters preferred Shivraj Singh Chouhan as the Chief Minister candidate, more than half of BJP’s voters felt that the lack of Chouhan’s presence in the campaign had no effect on their voting decision (Table 1). While three in ten BJP voters said that their voting decision could have been swayed if Shivraj Singh Chouhan had been made the CM face by the BJP, it is unclear what would have been the consequence.

The study shows that the absence of a Chief Ministerial candidate for the BJP had a relatively modest effect on the party’s vote. Almost half of the BJP voters believed that projecting a candidate would not have changed their voting decision (Table 2). While around three in ten BJP voters acknowledged that having a CM candidate could have influenced their choice, a notable 18% were uncertain about whether and how it might have impacted their voting decision.

All this, in spite of the fact that Chouhan remains popular: one-third of the voters said that in their opinion, his popularity has increased over the years, and another three in every ten believed that his popularity remained unchanged (Table 3). For a leader who has been in power for almost two decades, this is a major achievement.

The data shows a most noteworthy trend among BJP voters in Madhya Pradesh. A significant majority among them (56%) expressed unwavering loyalty to the party, asserting that they would have still voted for the BJP even if Narendra Modi was not the face of the electoral campaign (Table 4). However, two in ten BJP voters emphasised the significance of Modi’s presence, stating that they would not have voted for the BJP if not for him. The remaining quarter were not sure of how they would have voted in the absence of Modi.

What captures attention is that Rahul Gandhi’s campaign exerted a considerable influence on the voting decisions of more than half of Congress supporters, tipping the scales in favour of the party. Conversely, three in ten Congress voters, felt his campaign had no impact on their choice of vote (Table 5).

Despite the uncertainty about BJP’s Chief Ministerial candidate, the Congress failed to capitalise on it, in their favour. Although Shivraj Singh Chouhan was not at the forefront of the party’s campaign in the State, the voters continued to prefer him (39%) over Kamal Nath (34%) as the next CM (Table 6). Thus, regardless of the doubts about the future leadership in Madhya Pradesh, the ball remained in the BJP’s court.

(The authors are researchers at Lokniti-CSDS)

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