Lok Sabha elections 2019: BJP hopes to retain its ‘Fab 5’ seats in Madhya Pradesh

In its quest to bag a large number of seats in Madhya Pradesh after its 2018 assembly poll defeat, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is hoping to retain the “Fabulous Five” — the five parliamentary seats it has never lost since 1989. The 1989 general election is considered a landmark in the BJP’s history as the party tally jumped to 85 from two in the 1984 polls. After that election, the BJP emerged as a major player in national politics, shedding its earlier avatar as a party of two MPs — Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani.

As the BJP grew exponentially, taking predominant place in the erstwhile Janata Parivar and posing as the main challenger to the Congress, five seats in Madhya Pradesh never went to any other party since the 9th Lok Sabha polls in 1989.

The seats are: Bhind, Damoh, Indore, Vidisha and Bhopal. While the difference in tally between the Congress (114) and the BJP (109) in the 2018 assembly polls was just five, what is perhaps worrying for the saffron party is that in its traditional strongholds, the Congress has gained ground. The Congress won four of the eight assembly segments in Damoh, where the BJP’s sitting MP Prahlad Singh Patel is contesting for another term in the Lok Sabha.

Altogether, there are 10 Lok Sabha seats in which the BJP has never lost an election since its first upsurge in 1989. Three are in Gujarat: Gandhinagar, Ahmedabad (now Ahmedabad East and West) and the business hub of Surat.

The BJP has also not lost any general election in Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh — it lost a bypoll, though — and Jhalawar in Rajasthan. Vasundhara Raje won five consecutive terms from Jhalawar between 1989 and 2004, before the seat was renamed Jhalawar Baran in the delimitation exercise of 2008.

“These bastions of the BJP indicate that the party’s core base lies in north India even as it has expanded in all directions. For the BJP, however, the focus this time is to bag more seats in other states to compensate any loss in the Hindi belt,” said Dilip Panda, former professor of Gangadhar Meher University in Odisha.

Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan had turned Indore into a BJP fortress, winning eight consecutive polls since 1989. But in the last assembly election, the Congress and the BJP won four assembly segments each, setting the stage for a keen contest in the food and commercial capital of Madhya Pradesh.

On Thursday, Mahajan admitted lapses on the BJP’s part in the 2018 election. “We have made some mistakes for which the people have taught us a lesson in the assembly polls. Now, we have gone back to the people and rectified our mistakes. We hope to retain Indore,” she said.

In Bhind seat bordering Uttar Pradesh, the BJP faces another tough challenge as the Congress has bagged six out of eight assembly segments.

Analysts said miffed upper caste voters taught the BJP a lesson in Bhind, forcing the party to go into damage-control mode in this national election. Vidisha and Bhopal have retained saffron majority with six and five assembly segments, respectively. But Sushma Swaraj is absent in Vidisha this time. Congress stalwart Digvijaya Singh has been fielded in Bhopal, the state capital, in a prestige battle against BJP candidate Sadhvi Pragya, an accused in the 2006 Malegaon blast.

“The BJP has twin challenges in MP, where it won 27 of 29 seats in 2014. It has to retain as much of its current tally as possible and also keep these five seats in its kitty for a moral victory,” said Anuj Gupta, an analyst on Madhya Pradesh.

First Published:
May 12, 2019 07:08 IST

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