Bhopal, Dec. 4: Sonia Gandhi will have to travel hundreds of miles in Madhya Pradesh — a state spread over three lakh sq km — before she comes across a Congress MLA.
The good news for the Congress chief is that it cannot get worse. As the magnitude of defeat became clear, Congress leaders realised that the Madhya Pradesh debacle was in many ways worse than Gujarat. Last December, the Congress had lost to Narendra Modi’s BJP but its vote share had remained intact.
But in Madhya Pradesh, the party has suffered heavily in its strongholds and among its traditional voters — tribals, Dalits and other backward classes.
In Chhindwara, the Lok Sabha seat represented by Kamal Nath, the scorecard of eight Assembly segments held by the Congress reads: BJP— 5, Gondwana Gantantra Party (GGP) — 2, Independent — 1, Congress — 0.
Jabalpur is no different. The Congress has drawn a blank in the Narsinghgarh, Mandla, Jhabua, Sehore, Vidisha, Ujjain, Khandwa, Mandsauer and Neemuch segments.
More than 20 ministers in the Digvijay Singh government have been humbled by over 20,000 votes. Prominent among those who have lost by huge margins are Ajay Mushran (finance), Mahendra Bodh (home), Ratnesh Solomon (education), Deepak Saxena (public health), Narendra Nahata (taxation, excise), Satyendra Pathak (food and civil supplies) and Sriniwas Tiwari.
In the Mahakaushal region, where the party had bagged 35 of the 51 seats in 1998, the Congress has finished third in at least a dozen seats leaving the second spot for the lesser-known Gondwana Gantantra Party. Kamal Nath’s Chhindwara is part of this region.
News from the Malwa region is the same. In Dhar, where Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s public meeting had failed to draw a crowd of over 2,000, the BJP’s victory margin is more than 18,000 votes. The Congress had been counting on disquiet within the BJP on account of the RSS’ move to push for its own nominee.
The Congress can draw some solace from the fact that it humbled Uma Bharti’s brother Swami Prasad Lodhi at Pichore in Shivpuri district. But in the Gwalior-Guna region, including chief minister Digvijay Singh’s home district of Rajgarh, the Congress has performed miserably, winning just about a seat in each district.
Senior party leaders are at a loss to explain the magnitude of the debacle. Some disgruntled leaders like Manak Agarwal, who was denied a ticket from Itarsi, feel it is not just power shortage or poor roads. “The malaise is much more serious,” the former party spokesperson said, adding that the high command should draw some important lessons.
Stalwarts Arjun Singh, Kamal Nath, Digvijay Singh, Jyotiraditya Scindia and others who “manipulated” the ticket distribution to reward their loyalists have been rejected, he said. “First and foremost, the quota system in ticket distribution must end,” Manak said, calling for accountability and introspection beyond the usual practice of setting up a party panel whose report is neither discussed nor implemented.
Manak pointed out how the BJP planned and executed its campaign. A year ago, the top leadership finalised Uma’s name and the RSS came forward to throttle any dissent. The party conducted a through survey of the problems and conducted periodic training sessions for BJP workers on practical aspects such as booth management.