How the BJP worked to retain Madhya Pradesh

A stronger voter base, perception of the BJP’s performance at the Centre and State-level and carefully timed campaigns helped the party stay well ahead of the Congress in the recent Assembly election

December 07, 2023 01:21 am | Updated 02:14 am IST

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan during the ‘Ladli Brahmin Conference’ at Dussehra Ground in Madhya Pardesh’s Chhindwara on December 6, 2023. Photo: X/@JansamparkMP via PTI

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan during the ‘Ladli Brahmin Conference’ at Dussehra Ground in Madhya Pardesh’s Chhindwara on December 6, 2023. Photo: X/@JansamparkMP via PTI

In Madhya Pradesh, the BJP was able to stave off the fatigue factor and seize the initiative from a combatant Congress on account of a carefully curated strategy. This strategy was clear in its choice of candidates, projection of leadership and projecting the welfare schemes of both the Central and State governments. If the ‘double engine’ sarkar advantage was evident in any State, it was visibly on display in Madhya Pradesh.

With a 7.5% rise in vote share, the BJP was able to secure over 70% of the seats in the State Assembly. With a mere fall in vote share of 0.5%, the Congress on the other hand lost over 40% of seats as compared to its performance in 2018 (Table 1). The Lokniti-CSDS Post Poll survey in Madhya Pradesh provides evidence of the factors that contributed to the victory of the BJP.

Evidently, the high level of satisfaction with both the Modi-led central government and the Chauhan-led State government worked to the advantage of the BJP. Seven of every ten voters were satisfied with the performance of the Central government while six of every ten expressed their satisfaction with the State government. The BJP began its campaign in Madhya Pradesh with a focus on the leadership of the Prime Minister and the collective leadership at the State level. As the campaign progressed, a minor change in strategy was evident. While they continued with the collective leadership template at the State level, Shivaraj Singh Chauhan was much more a ‘first among equals’. Further, committed support to the BJP was further buttressed by the popularity of both Prime Minister Modi and Chief Minister Chauhan (this factor is further elaborated in the different articles on Madhya Pradesh based on the Lokniti-CSDS survey).

In the case of the Congress too, the Chief Minister face of the party, Kamal Nath drew support from party supporters as did Rahul Gandhi. Yet, the party appeared to peak too early in the campaign. It released its electoral promises too early in the day, giving an opportunity to the BJP to come up with a counter strategy. It may be useful to record that one-fourth of the respondents in the survey stated that they decided on whom to vote for in the last few days of the campaign and another four of every ten made this choice after the declaration of candidates. The BJP drew larger support among these late decision-makers as compared to the Congress.

The welfare schemes implemented by both the Central and State governments appeared to have led to greater support for the BJP. Those who benefitted from the welfare scheme for farmers tended to support the BJP. Similarly, the welfare schemes for women — Ladli Lakshmi and Ladli Behena schemes — also helped the BJP garner support. Those who benefitted from the two schemes were more likely to vote for the BJP (other articles in this series elaborate on this point).

The Lokniti-CSDS survey captures the demographic profile of the supporters of the BJP and the Congress. The BJP did extremely well among the younger voters. It had a seven-percentage point advantage among the less than 25-year-old voters and a fourteen percentage point advantage among those in the 26-to-35-year range. The gap between the two parties was smallest among the older voters with the BJP being merely six percentage points ahead. Six of every ten of those who had access to higher education voted for the BJP, giving the party a twenty-six-percentage point advantage over the Congress. The BJP had a fourteen-percentage point advantage over the Congress in urban areas.

Over two-thirds of the rich and over half the middle-class voters favoured the BJP (Table 2). In contrast, the Congress has only a marginal advantage among the poor. The BJP was able to secure higher levels of support across caste groups. The Congress was able to do better than the BJP only among Dalits, Tribals and Muslims (Table 3). In other words, it is possible to surmise that the BJP managed to win large support among the upper half of the social order, along with a chunk of voters from the lower half, while the Congress vote was concentrated among the lower half but that did not consolidate adequately in favour of the party. This skew contributed to the large difference in vote shares of the two parties.

The BJP’s return to power in Madhya Pradesh was thus on account of the committed support it enjoyed among the voters, the perception of the work done by the Central and State governments as well as the welfare schemes that it had implemented. Its election campaign, too, focused on the right issues at key moments and also helped the party secure a decisive advantage.

Yatindra Singh Sisodia is the Director, Madhya Pradesh Institute of Social Science Research (MPISSR), Ujjain Madhya Pradesh; Sandeep Shastri is the Director-Academics, NITTE Education Trust, and the National Coordinator of the Lokniti Network; Suhas Palshikar taught political science and is the chief editor of Studies in Indian Politics; Sanjay Kumar is a Professor and Co-director of Lokniti-CSDS

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