As the dust settles on the Lok Sabha election results, the I.N.D.I.A bloc and Congress appear rejuvenated, having secured a total of 234 seats, with Congress contributing 99 to that tally. However, Madhya Pradesh remained a significant setback for the alliance.

In this state, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) achieved a clean sweep, winning all 29 seats it contested, surpassing its 2019 performance when it had won 28 seats, leaving only one seat to the Congress. The BJP's vote share rose to 59%, up from 58% in the previous election.

The Congress received around 32% of the vote, slightly down from their 34.5% share in 2019. This shift highlights the evolving political landscape in the state, where the BJP continues to strengthen its position.

Kamal Nath, the former Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president remained entrenched in his stronghold, desperately striving to secure it for his son Nakul Nath. The party's loss in Chhindwara is particularly telling of the crumbling state of the Congress in Madhya Pradesh. This seat, historically a Congress bastion, had only been lost by the party once, since 1980.

Commenting on Nakul Nath’s defeat, a Congress insider attributed it to his failure to connect with the masses and the confusion among voters about whether he was joining the BJP.

“Nakul Nath's failure stemmed from voter confusion about his potential defection to the BJP and his limited direct connection with the masses. In Chhindwara, voters identify more with Kamal Nath, who has built a stronghold in the area.

“Additionally, the defection of Deepak Saxena, a close associate of Kamal Nath, and others to the BJP after the assembly elections further eroded the Nath family's popularity among voters," the insider told The Citizen.

Interestingly, while all the prominent BJP leaders, including Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Jyotiraditya Scindia, and V. D. Sharma, secured victories with margins ranging from 200,000 to 600,000 votes, major Congress figures such as Digvijay Singh from Rajgarh, Kantilal Bhuria from Ratlam, and Nakul Nath from Chhindwara have suffered defeat. This contrast is also being attributed to the BJP’s phenomenal performance in the state.

Reacting to the BJP’s win, the party's state secretary, Rajneesh Agarwal, told The Citizen, “The BJP has made history by winning all the seats in the state. This remarkable achievement is a testament to the relentless efforts of our cadres and leaders who continued to work tirelessly even after our victory in last year’s assembly polls. They remained focused and did not become complacent despite our earlier success.”

Agarwal emphasised that “this victory underscores the dedication and commitment of the party members, who have consistently worked towards strengthening the party's presence and connecting with the electorate across Madhya Pradesh”. He also highlighted the strategic planning and grassroots mobilisation efforts that played a crucial role in securing this comprehensive win.

Commenting on the impact of the ‘Modi factor’ in the election, Agarwal stated, “There is no doubt that this election was fought with Narendra Modi as the central figure, and this victory in the state belongs to him.”

Agarwal elaborated that Modi's leadership and vision resonated strongly with the voters, galvanising support across Madhya Pradesh. He pointed out that Modi's track record of development, effective governance, and his appeal as a decisive leader played a significant role in mobilising the electorate.

“The people of Madhya Pradesh have reposed their faith in Modi’s leadership, and this landslide victory is a clear endorsement of his policies and the direction in which he is taking the country,” Agarwal added. He also mentioned that the campaign strategy was heavily focused on Modi’s image, and his ability to connect with the masses proved to be a decisive factor in the BJP’s sweeping success.

Political observers believe that Congress's inability to project a leader under whose name the election was fought in the state remained a key factor for its dismal performance. “In Madhya Pradesh, it appeared that Congress candidates were contesting the elections individually, without cohesive leadership or a unified strategy,” Girja Shankar, a veteran journalist and political observer told The Citizen.

He explained that Congress leaders were preoccupied with states where they had active alliances, neglecting states like Madhya Pradesh where the party was largely on its own. This lack of focused leadership and strategic direction significantly weakened their campaign.

“In stark contrast, the BJP approached the elections with a well-coordinated effort, driven by strong, centralised leadership and a clear strategy,” Shankar said, emphasising that the BJP's unified front and disciplined campaign, led by prominent leaders and supported by a robust grassroots network, allowed them to connect more effectively with voters and secure a decisive victory.

Shankar also noted that the BJP’s ability to mobilise resources and maintain a consistent message throughout the state was a key factor in their success.

Another Congress insider, speaking anonymously, told The Citizen, “In the span of three months since assuming the role of PCC chief following Kamal Nath, Jitu Patwari has faltered significantly in his efforts to breathe new life into the stagnant party. His lack of authority to command the respect of fellow party members and his inability to cultivate trust among senior leaders has been glaringly apparent.

“This deficiency was starkly highlighted by his failure to anticipate and counter the BJP's strategic moves, resulting in the rejection of the I.N.D.I.A (Samajwadi Party) candidate's nomination in Khajuraho and the abrupt withdrawal of the Congress candidate in Indore.”

The Congress faces a significant challenge from the BJP in Madhya Pradesh, which has effectively incorporated OBC leadership and caste identity politics into its Hindutva strategy. With current Congress leaders proving inadequate.

“The BJP has successfully integrated caste identity politics into its Hindutva framework, fielding 16 candidates from the Other Backward Castes (OBCs) and boasting OBC leadership in former Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and incumbent Mohan Yadav.

“With Yadav likely to remain in power until the 2028 Assembly elections and Chouhan potentially eyeing a Cabinet minister role in the Modi government, their combined influence poses a significant obstacle for the Congress, which lacks credible OBC leadership at the top level.

“The party's current leaders, including PCC chief Jitu Patwari and leader of opposition Umang Singhar, appear inadequate, signalling a need for Rahul Gandhi and his team to cultivate a new generation of leaders from diverse backgrounds while avoiding past mistakes to avoid further electoral setbacks,” the insider added.

However, many refuse to look at the electoral results through immediate factors and understand it as an ever-growing stature of Hindutva politics in the state and its cohorts. It is pertinent to mention that following the Mandal Commission reforms and the Babri Masjid demolition, the saffron brigade has seen a remarkable rise in Madhya Pradesh, greatly broadening its influence.

Long before its significant victories in the 2014 and 2019 general elections, the party was already a formidable political force in the state. This ascent can be largely credited to the robust RSS network in the area. Even in its earlier form as the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, it maintained a strong presence in the Malwa region.

Talking to The Citizen, veteran journalist Shams Ur Rehman Alavi, who has covered the state for many years, explained that it is a long-drawn process that has culminated in the strengthening of Hindutva politics in the state through propaganda machinery and projecting Muslims as a threat to the majority community.

“Every city has a unique character, and Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh, has traditionally had a distinct Muslim identity," Alavi said, adding “Over the years, Hindutva forces have strategically exploited this character to consolidate the Hindu majority, employing a variety of propaganda tools, including local Hindi newspapers.

“These efforts were designed to instil a sense of insecurity among the majority population. This persistent narrative of insecurity and division ultimately paved the way for the rise of Hindutva politics in the state and the kind of electoral results that we are witnessing, transforming the political landscape of Bhopal and beyond.”