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BJP consolidates ground support

Bhopal, July 11: The BJP leadership may have problems in Gujarat and Karnataka, two states it rules, and uneasy ties with ally Janata Dal (United), but the party appears to be consolidating at the ground level.

After winning 10 out of 12 mayoral posts in Uttar Pradesh, the ruling BJP in Madhya Pradesh has done exceedingly well in the state, winning 36 of the 49 municipal corporations in recently held elections, the results for which were declared yesterday.

For the first time in many years, the BJP has performed well in Congress citadels like Chhindwara (represented by Union minister Kamal Nath in the Lok Sabha), Rajgarh-Ragaogarh (AICC general secretary Digvijaya Singh’s pocket borough) and Ratlam-Jhabua (MPCC chief Kantilal Bhuria’s parliamentary seat).

The BJP has been in power in Madhya Pradesh since December 2003.

Sources said the civic poll outcome had demoralised the Congress, which is hoping to stage a comeback in the state. Assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh are due in November 2013.

Senior party leaders, who did not want to be named, said the victory of 433 BJP councillors in 733 wards showed that the party was well entrenched at the ground level.

The Congress has won in five places, which means a loss of six. Five years ago, the party had won 11 municipal boards against the BJP’s 25. Independents, mostly Congress and BJP rebels, have won the remaining seats.

State BJP chief Prabhat Jha said the civic poll verdict showed the popularity of the Shivraj Singh Chauhan government. He said voters across Madhya Pradesh had rejected the Congress propaganda that rampant corruption and rise in crimes had symbolised BJP rule.

A jubilant Chauhan hosted a lavish meal for his council of ministers and state BJP leaders at his 6, Shyamla Hills residence in Bhopal.

The Congress has been trying to dislodge the BJP but, going by the civic poll results, it seems the task will not be easy. Congress insiders said the party needed to revise its strategy.

On Sunday, the BJP had swept the urban body elections in Uttar Pradesh, winning 10 out of 12 mayoral seats in cities like Lucknow and Kanpur.

As neither the ruling Samajwadi Party nor the Opposition BSP fought the elections officially, both opting to back Independents, the municipal battle had been billed as a direct contest between the BJP and the Congress.