After eighteen years of Bharatiya Janata Party government in the state, led by Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the party has again swept the state, with an unimaginable and unprecedented majority of at least 150 seats.
While the final tally may vary, it is clear that the result is no Congress victory or even a close contest against Kamal Nath many were hoping for.
Barring the fifteen months of Kamal Nath's government, between December 2018 and March 2020, the state had been a BJP bastion and has retained it for another five years.
Even in 2018, when the BJP lost the elections, the traditional vote of the party held steady. Ironically, the BJP pulled off a greater vote share than its counterpart in the state. The final difference could be anywhere between 6 to 9 percentage points.
While the final difference in seats between the two parties was five, twenty seats were decided by a margin of less than three thousand votes. Congress won all the 20 seats. BJP, as of now, is leading on 15 of those seats.
Five key factors have ushered this saffron sweep in the state of Madhya Pradesh.
The Numbers In The Malwa Nimar Region
If Congress were to clock at least 120 seats across the state, they were required to score big in the Malwa Nimar region. However, BJP looks good on at least 40 of the 66 seats. Irony is that one of the opinion polls were giving the Congress 44 of the 66 seats in this region, in October 2023.
Congress picked up 36 of the 66 seats in 2018, winning 14 of the 22 seats reserved for the tribals. Across the region, the BJP could win only 28 seats but managed only 7 of the 22 seats reserved for the tribals.
Quite like how the first phase of the Uttar Pradesh elections, across West UP, in the Jat hinterland, was instrumental for the fortunes of the Samajwadi Party, the thrashing in this region by the BJP has ensured five more years of the BJP Government.
Significant gains have also been made in the Gwalior-Chambal region, where the BJP is looking good to win 12 seats, against the October projections of 2-4.
Mamaji, Ek Baar Phir Se?
Before the election campaign got underway, around June-July, there were murmurs about Chouhan being replaced, given the anti-incumbency and general fatigue amongst the public against him.
After the recent jolt to the BJP in Karnataka, speculations were rife about the Chief Minister being replaced, and the party not being in a position to secure even seventy seats.
However, barely four months later, all that has changed. The BJP has been clever to run the campaign around the idea of Double Engine Sarkar.
While Chouhan may not have been the main face of the campaign, he was seen working closely on the ground, across constituencies, cementing another five years for his party with a mandate most exit polls could not anticipate.
Even the opinion polls conducted in October and November gave him an edge over Kamal Nath when it came to the choice of the Chief Minister.
Blame Congress for peaking too early or the BJP for reading the writing on the wall well in time, or perhaps, Madhya Pradesh wants Mamaji, ek baar phir se.
Mamaji And His Sisters
In Madhya Pradesh, Congress has the edge when it comes to male voters. However, the BJP has a far bigger lead when it comes to women voters, and that could be the story of this election.
In a state where the margins are too close for comfort, women voters have swung the election single-handedly, early trends indicate.
Previously, a similar trend has been witnessed in Uttar Pradesh, where women voters backed Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath for significantly improving the law and order in the state.
In Madhya Pradesh, the Ladli Behna Yojana has been a game-changer.
For female voters, the money credited to their accounts is not only about financial support.
Many feared that a change in the government in the state could pause or delay any future payments, and, therefore, were hesitant to vote for Congress.
Many were drawing from their experience of the 15 months of Congress government where the farm loan waivers were indefinitely delayed, first by citing the Lok Sabha elections, and then the empty coffers.
The Last Lap
Something went terribly wrong for the Congress in the last month of the campaign, and the impact is showing in the exit polls, especially in the Gwalior-Chambal region.
Many opinion polls were giving 2-4 seats to the BJP in September, and 4-8 seats in October. However, early counting trends are now giving in excess of 14 seats to the BJP in the region, which is also a Scindia stronghold.
This is where the party has also fielded some of its ministers from the Centre, adding to the caste dynamics.
The other factor that may have worked against Congress is the OBC outreach.
Clearly, Rahul Gandhi’s Jitni Abadi Utna Haq is not yielding the results he may have hoped for, given the OBCs do not vote as a homogenous group.
In fact, Gandhi’s sloganeering may have only added to their confusion, prompting them to opt for ensured freebies and tangible transfers to their accounts over lofty promises.
Tushar is a senior-sub-editor at Swarajya. He tweets at @Tushar15_
An appeal from Swarajya
At Swarajya, we rely on our readers' support through subscriptions to sustain our media platform. Unlike larger conglomerates, we are unable to relentlessly chase advertising money — our model is largely built on your patronage.
Your support has never been more crucial. We work tirelessly to deliver 10-15 high-quality articles daily, ensuring you receive insightful content from 7 AM to 10 PM.
If you believe India's story has to be articulated in a way it has never been done before without shrugging it off, become a patron (or) subscribe now for ₹̶2̶4̶0̶0̶ ₹1999 and get 12 print issues, unlimited digital access for 1 year, a special India that is Bharat T-shirt (Offer ends soon).
We are counting on you!