The Congress said it targeted CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan over the recent farmer agitation
The BJP has won 26 of 43 urban civic bodies for which elections were held in Madhya Pradesh, a state it ruled for the last decade and a half. The Congress narrowed the gap somewhat by winning 14; five years ago it had won nine.
But the opposition party is focusing on the three out of three corporator seats it has won in by-elections in two municipalities in Mandsaur district of Madhya Pradesh. The Congress is connecting the wins to the farmer agitation in the area, where five farmers were killed
when the police opened fire to control protesting crowds in June this year.
The Congress said it had aggressively targeted Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan over the farmer agitation in its campaign for the by-election, held in Shyamgarh and Garoth, both municipalities controlled by the BJP. "This victory is a message for the government that the people of the country are now bored with its corrupt ministers and corrupt ruling party," said the Congress' state chief, Atun Yadav, adding, "The Congress party will definitely get the benefit of this.
Shivraj Singh Chouhan had held meetings in 27 of 13 municipalities that the BJP lost today. But the BJP has rejected the Congress' claims saying it lost because it chose bad candidates. The civic bodies where by-elections were held are a good 80 to 100 km from where the farmer protests took place, the BJP said, insisting that the agitation did not impact the elections.
After poor rain and crop failure, thousands of farmers in drought-hit western Madhya Pradesh protested for days in June demanding that authorities increase the minimum price for their crops and waive their bank loans.
The death of the farmers in police firing on June 6 triggered bigger protests
across the state, escalating into a major political issue. The ruling BJP accused the Congress of fanning the agitation, with Chief Minister Chouhan assuring the state assembly that the government would not spare those responsible for the violence and the farmers' deaths.
Assembly elections will be held next year in Madhya Pradesh and the Congress hopes for an anti-incumbency sentiment against Mr Chouhan, who has been chief minister for the last 12 years. The Congress had hoped to benefit from such a sentiment five years ago too, but Mr Chouhan led the BJP to a sweep of the state winning 165 of 230 seats.
In the national election of 2014 the BJP won 27 of the state's 29 seats.