MP local body polls: What results indicate about 2023 assembly elections

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won seven mayoral cities in the recently concluded local body polls in Madhya Pradesh while the Congress won five and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) opened its account for the first time in the state by winning one. In 76 municipalities, where chairpersons were indirectly elected, the BJP won in 65 and Congress in 11.

The BJP claimed that it has defeated the Congress in the semi-final before the next year’s assembly election. The Congress claimed that it has also done well and the result is a morale booster for its workers.

In 255 municipal councils, the BJP got majority in 231 and the Congress in 16 while the rest went to others. Unlike mayor seats, the BJP performed much better as compared to 2015, when the last local body polls were held in municipal bodies and councils.

In the rural body polls, the BJP claimed to have won 40 of the 52 district panchayats including Bhopal, where a Congress candidate defected to the BJP just before voting for the post of chairperson.

Both the parties fought hard organising road shows and rallies for elections and after the results there were allegations of the BJP engineering defections in the Congress, exposing the vulnerability of the grand old party.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP national president JP Nadda congratulated Madhya Pradesh chief minister, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, for the “historic” win. The message was to focus on extending gratitude towards voters for believing in the party and preparing for the next year’s assembly polls. Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi congratulated the state party leadership for the performance.

“The BJP lost seven mayoral seats which should be a matter of concern but gained in councillor seats, showing better connect with voters. Despite anti-incumbency, the Congress won only five seats and lost at least 20% to 30% councillors seats it was holding. Instead of analysing reasons for not doing so well, both parties are trying to get as much mileage from the results to create a favourable environment before the assembly elections,” said Dinesh Gupta, a political analyst.

Another political analyst, Girija Shankar, said the BJP fought this election on the lines of the elections in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, where local bodies and panchayat elections were considered crucial.

The BJP gave tickets to 380 Muslim candidates and 92% of them won. The party’s influence also increased in the tribal dominated areas, which was once considered a Congress bastions in MP.

“We registered a historic win. People showed trust on us. I thank voters to again reimpose their faith in us. We will win assembly election with the same motto,” he said referring to the slogan, ‘Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas’, and the Centre’s populist schemes and the state’s public welfare schemes.

However, Congress spokesperson KK Mishra said, “The BJP has showed its real face by using official machinery to win. Even a BJP MLA said that officials were seeking votes for the BJP, which he has never heard or seen. People supported Congress candidates but BJP gained by misusing its power. In assembly election, the BJP will face defeat due to their arrogance and unconstitutional behaviour.”

The election results also showed that the AAP has found some footing in Madhya Pradesh with the party winning a seat of mayor and 45 councillor seats of over 25,000 in the state, and the party was a reason for the loss of BJP in mayor elections in Ujjain and Gwalior. Similarly, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) and Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) won a few seats in Muslim dominated areas including Khargone, Khandwa and Neemuch, resulting in the loss of the Congress candidates.

Analysts said these parties in assembly polls can impact prospects of the BJP and the Congress. “The AAP has gained support among core the BJP voters i.e., upper class people, educated and professionals and the AIMIM and the SDPI can divert Muslims votes away from the Congress,” said Jayram Shukla, a political analyst. The Congress should also be worried as parties with tribal focus such as Gondwana Gantantra Party and JAYS performed well. “These parties can eat into the Congress tribal votes,” he added.

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