While the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept the first phase of the urban local body polls in Madhya Pradesh clinching nearly 100 of 133 civic bodies and the principal Opposition Congress won three mayoral seats, the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Asaduddin Owaisi-led All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) – who made their dubuts in the state civic polls – opened their accounts and impacted the polls in significant ways.
In a state whose politics has always been a bipolar affair involving the BJP and the Congress, the AAP wrested one mayoral seat from the saffron party, while the AIMIM, picking four corporator seats, proved to be a spoilsport for the Congress in the Burhanpur mayoral poll by splitting votes that enabled the BJP to squeeze through.
In the Singrauli mayoral poll, the AAP’s Rani Agarwal, riding on the plank of free water, effective governance and a corruption-free corporation, trounced the BJP’s Chandrapratap Vishwakarma by 9,352 votes. The AAP also managed to win 18 corporator seats across several civic bodies.
The AAP, however, reportedly managed to secure just five seats in the 45-member Singrauli Municipal Corporation, which was clinched by the BJP with 23 seats with the Congress bagging 12.
Kejriwal, who had held a roadshow in Singrauli, hailed the party’s maiden mayor poll victory in Madhya Pradesh, tweeting, “Many congratulations to AAP candidate Rani Agarwal ji, who won the post of Mayor in Singrauli Municipal Corporation of Madhya Pradesh, and to all the winners and workers. Work hard for the people. Now, the people in every corner of the country are liking the honest politics of work of Aam Aadmi Party.”
The AIMIM won four corporator seats, including two in the Jabalpur Muncipal Corporation and one each in Khandwa and Burhanpur corporations. In Khandwa’s ward number 14, AIMIM candidate Shakira Bilal defeated Congress candidate Noorjahan Begum with a margin of 285 votes.
The AIMIM however dealt a severe blow to the Congress in the mayoral contest in Muslim-dominated Burhanpur, where BJP candidate Madhuri Patel defeated the Congress’s Shanaz Ismail with a margin of just 388 votes. The AIMIM’s mayoral candidate garnered over 10,000 votes, which seemed to have led to the Congress nominee’s defeat.
Owaisi had campaigned extensively in these polls, including in Jabalpur, Khandwa and Burhanpur.
Despite the presence of the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party in MP politics, the elections at various levels have always been a contest essentially between the BJP and the Congress. The successful entry of the AAP and the AIMIM in the state civic body polls has come barely 16 months before the crucial Assembly elections, which might be a cause of worry especially for the Congress given the BJP’s well-entrenched pole position.
While highlighting that the Congress wrested 3 mayoral posts from the BJP, state Congress president Kamal Nath termed the AIMIM as the BJP’s “B team”. “The BJP and its B team of AIMIM tried their best and even then, the Congress gave a tough fight in Burhanpur and lost with a narrow margin of 300 votes,” he said. He also said that “Despite fielding candidates in many corporations including Jabalpur, AIMIM managed to get merely 10,000 votes in Burhanpur.”
The Congress camp underlined that the party has bagged the Gwalior mayor’s post after 57 years and the Jabalpur and Chhindawara mayoral seats after two decades. The party, however, would not be able to control the Gwalior and Jabalpur corporations as it could not get the majority numbers there.
MP Congress spokesman Abbas Hafeez called the AAP and the AIMIM the “BJP’s B-team”, charging that they were “activated” by the BJP for “splitting the Congress votes as the ruling party feared its loss in the polls”. “We have conveyed it to the people at large that they will be wasting their votes if they choose AAP or AIMIM and that they should back the Congress if they want to ensure the BJP’s defeat,” he said.
The first phase of the MP civic body polls marked a setback for the BJP too, as the party lost four of its mayoral posts to the Opposition.
State BJP chief VD Sharma, however, sought to downplay the BJP’s loss of the mayoral seats, underlining the party’s sweep in the polls across the state.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan asserted that the BJP emerged victorious on 80 per cent of the urban local body seats unlike the earlier trend when, he added, the share used to be “45-55 per cent” between the Congress and the BJP, respectively.
The AIMIM’s MP in-charge Sayyed Minaz said the results of the first phase of the civic polls, declared on Sunday, were not up to the party’s expectations and that it would look forward to the second phase results to be declared on July 20. The party is “hopeful” of winning seats in the Ratlam and Khargone civic bodies, he added.
The AAP is also hoping for a “better performance” in the second phase, claiming it may then get 20 corporator seats. Sate AAP leader Akshay Hunka said the party’s vote share has increased considerably in these local body polls. The party has fielded 2,000 candidates for the corporator seats and another nine for mayoral positions in the state.