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As MP election nears, lessons for BJP in local body polls — ‘lead ours, but Congress a concern’

BJP won in 12 urban bodies while Congress registered victory in 7. BJP wrested Dhar, Barwani & Manawar municipalities, all tribal-dominated, but Congress captured Pithampur.

File photo of Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan at a rally in Morena | ANI
File photo of Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan at a rally in Morena | ANI

New Delhi: In elections to 19 urban local bodies of Madhya Pradesh, results of which were declared Monday, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) captured 12 while the Congress registered victory in seven.

These urban bodies comprise six municipalities and 13 city councils. Of the municipalities, four have been won by BJP while Congress won two. The BJP also won seven of the city councils and the Congress the remaining six.

The Congress registered victory in senior leader Digvijaya Singh’s stronghold Raghogarh. Its victory in Pithampur is also remarkable as the tribal-dominated municipality in Dhar is the stronghold of former Union minister and BJP leader Vikram Verma. Meanwhile, the BJP won in Dhar, Barwani, and Manawar — municipalities that Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra covered in Madhya Pradesh.

Held on January 20, these were the last elections in the state before the assembly polls in December.

Madhya Pradesh BJP president V D Sharma termed his party’s wins Monday as a victory of the policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

A senior Madhya Pradesh BJP leader told ThePrint, “It is clear from these results that the lead is ours, but we should not forget that these are local body elections, where all the governance and administration is in our hands, even then Congress performed well in eight bodies.”

He added: “This shows that BJP needs to work harder in assembly elections where the number of voters is in lakhs. There are Congress MLAs in the assembly so the party is very much in the contest, which is a matter of concern for us.”

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Notable wins

In Digvijaya’s home turf Raghogarh, the Congress won 16 out of 24 wards, the rest going to the BJP. 

Dhar district, stronghold of former Union minister Vikram Verma, proved to be a bit disappointing for the BJP as Congress captured the Pithampur municipality, registering a victory in 17 wards. The BJP, which won in 12 wards, had 22 councillors last time and also had control over the municipality.

Verma’s wife Neena is the MLA from Dhar, but the BJP registered losses in the district due to factionalism in the party. However, it managed to wrest Dhar municipality from the Congress, along with Barwani, Sendhwa, and Manawar.

Barwani is the constituency of Madhya Pradesh cabinet minister Prem Singh Patel and BJP Rajya Sabha member Sumer Singh Solanki. Out of 24 wards, the BJP has won 14 and the Congress won the rest. In Sendhwa municipality, the BJP won 19 wards and Congress won five. In Manawar, the BJP won nine wards while the Congress won six. 

In last year’s local body elections, the BJP was successful in nine out of 16 mayoral elections. But the Congress managed to capture five important mayor posts in Jabalpur, Chhindwara, Rewa, Morena, and Gwalior. 

Focus on tribal areas

The BJP managed to wrest Dhar, Barwani, and Manawar municipalities, all tribal-dominated areas, from the Congress. Party leaders also pointed out that the Bharat Jodo Yatra, which had covered these areas, didn’t seem to have benefitted Congress. 

BJP general secretary Bhagwandas Sabnani told ThePrint, “The Congress had performed very well in the tribal-dominated seats in the last elections, because of which Kamal Nath’s government was formed (in 2018), but we have wrested these three tribal-dominated municipalities from them. That is the result of our work for the tribal community.”

Another BJP leader, on the condition of anonymity, said: “We need not be so happy because we must not forget that we lost Pithampur, also in a tribal-dominated area. Our tribal MP Sumer Singh Solanki could not help the party win in his ward, and that also is a matter of concern.”

Importance of tribal seats 

In 2013 assembly elections, the BJP had won 37 of the 47 seats reserved for tribals which contributed to Shivraj Singh Chouhan becoming the chief minister for the third time. In 2018, the BJP’s count dropped to 16 of these seats, while the Congress won 31 and Kamal Nath’s government was formed.

Ever since, the BJP has pulled out all the stops to increase its presence in tribal-dominated areas. In 2021, Union Home minister Amit Shah attended a programme in Jabalpur commemorating the martyrdom day of Raja Shankar Shah and his son Raghunath Shah who played a key role in the revolt of 1857. Later the same year, Modi addressed a rally in Bhopal on Tribal Day on November 15.

Last year, the PM released eight cheetahs brought in from Namibia in Kuno National Park, which is in a tribal-dominated area in Sheopur district. On his part, Chouhan has launched the Birsa Munda self-employment scheme for tribals, and Tantya Mama Arthik Kalyan Yojana providing economic assistance to tribals. 

(Edited by Smriti Sinha)

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