Hat-trick: How Shivraj Chouhan cashed in on his 'shasak nahi sevak' image
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The BJP recorded its third consecutive victory in Madhya Pradesh Sunday by a margin that was closer to its 2003 mandate, proving that its confidence about winning "pro-incumbency" votes was anything but misplaced.
Riding on Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan's popularity and its governance record, the BJP romped home with ease. A stunned Congress, which was hoping to end its 10-year long exile from power, conceded defeat, saying it had got the message and would play the role of a constructive opposition. It did not offer any excuses, just saying that it would introspect on what went wrong.
The BJP won 165 seats in the 230-member house. The Congress won 58 seats, while the Bahujan Samaj Party won four seats.
Chouhan himself won from Budhni by 84,805 votes, and from Vidisha by 16,966 votes. While he was expected to win Budhni, Vidisha was a little tricky as former finance minister Raghavji, who was sacked after the sodomy controversy, had hinted at a rebellion, forcing the party to field its best possible candidate.
While about half-a-dozen ministers, including Laxmikant Sharma, Anup Mishra, Ajay Vishnoi and Ramkrishna Kusmaria, lost their seats, most of the ministers managed to win.
The BJP, of course, had a headstart in campaigning and fine-tuning its strategy, having projected Chouhan much in advance. After the BJP's successive victories in 2003 and 2008, the party leadership gave a free hand to Chouhan and state president Narendra Tomar, who work well together.
The state BJP unit finalised the list of candidates in Bhopal, and then sent it to the party's central leadership. On the other hand, the Congress high command decided the candidates in New Delhi.
A few months before the elections were announced, Chouhan criss-crossed the state as part of his Jan Ashirwad Yatra, an exercise that helped the party gauge the public mood. The decision to drop 43 MLAs and two ministers was taken after the feedback he got while on the move.