Delivering a severe blow to the BJP in the Hindi heartland months ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress on Tuesday dislodged the saffron party out of power in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan and was just two seats short of the majority in Madhya Pradesh where the two parties were locked in a nail-biting contest throughout the day.
In a bid to outsmart the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after the experience in Goa and Manipur, the Congress moved in late on Tuesday writing to Madhya Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel seeking an appointment to stake claim to form the next government. State Congress Chief Kamal Nath wrote to Patel claiming the Congress has emerged as the single-largest party with “majority support”.
In Telangana, the ruling Telangana Rashtriya Samithi (TRS)’s the gamble of early elections paid off with the party scoring a landslide 4/5th win getting 88 seats out of 119 at stake, thrashing the Congress-led People’s Front.
The Congress also lost its last bastion in the Northeast — Mizoram — when it was defeated convincingly by the Mizo National Front (MNF) ending the party’s decade-long hold over power in the state.
Suffering worst defeat since coming to power in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted late in the night that he accepted the verdict with humility and would work with greater vigour for the people.
The highlight of the day was the ding-dong battle between the ruling BJP and the Congress in Madhya Pradesh where leads alternated between the two sides, with Congress getting a slight edge by winning 87 seats and leading in 26 in the 230-member House. The Congress was ahead in 113 including those won and the BJP in 109 which included 83 wins.
The Congress had won 58 seats in the last election. A nearly 3 percent swing in votes against BJP hit the party hard in the elections where agrarian unrest, unemployment and the ill effects of demonetization dominated the campaign.
The Congress, which may be falling short of the magic figure of 116, could look to get backing from the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which is leading in 2 seats, and the Samajwadi Party (SP), which has won one seat, besides Independents, most of whom are Congress rebels and have won three seats while leading in one. The SP said it will back the Congress, and the BSP may follow suit.
Facing a stiff anti-incumbency, the BJP under Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, which had won 165 seats in 2013, was pushed down to 109 seats with 82 wins and leading in 28 seats. The party has been in power for the last 15 years in the state.
In the neighboring Chhattisgarh, where also the BJP had been in power for three terms, the Congress took a sweet revenge by sweeping back to power with a three-fourths majority of 68 seats out of 90. The BJP won 15 seats. The alliance of former Chief Minister Ajit Jogi-led Janta Congress Chhattisgarh and Mayawati-led BSP fared poorly winning six and was leading in one seat.
In the 2013 elections, the BJP had won 49 seats against the Congress’ 39. The saffron party saw a huge negative swing of 8 percent from 41 percent it had secured in the last elections, while Congress’ fortunes improved drastically when it got 3 percent more votes at 42 percent.
Rajasthan proved true to the 20-year-old tradition of voting out the ruling party. The battle was won by the Congress which has bagged 99 seats, while the ruling BJP won 73 seats. The Congress, which is just short of the halfway mark of 100 of the 199 seats where the election was held, saw its ally Rashtriya Lok Dal winning one seat. The BSP won six seats and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) won 2 seats. The two parties had fought against both Congress and BJP.
In final analysis, the BJP put up a better-than-expected fight as opinion polls had written off the party even before the contest had started.
The Bharatiya Tribal Party won two seats and the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party bagged 3. Independents, comprising mostly the Congress and BJP rebels, had a field day when 12 of them won and another was leading.
The Congress, which had a disastrous performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and suffered successive defeats in various Assembly elections, smiled for the first time defeating the BJP in a direct contest in three crucial states in north India.
Party president Rahul Gandhi, who campaigned vigorously, said the Assembly election results were a referendum on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s non-performance on issues of unemployment, agrarian distress, corruption and negating the ill effects of demonetisation.
This was countered by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who said issues in state elections are entirely different. The BJP won Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh in 2003 but lost the Lok sabha elections the next year, he said.
The general elections in 2019 would be fought around the performance of Modi where people will vote for the tried and tested leadership against a non-ideological opposition coalition, which is bound to collapse sooner than later, he added.
Riding a pro-incumbency wave, the TRS headed by Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao, scored a scintilating victory in Telangana making a mincemeat of the Congress-led “Praja Kutami” that included the TDP, CPI and the Telangana Jana Samithi. The inclusion of the TDP apparently backfired as the TRS made a bogey of the presence of “outsider” from Andhra Pradesh in Telangana politics.
In the 119-member Assembly, the TRS won 88 seats while the COngress managed to win only 19. TRS ally AIMIM led by Asaduddin Owaisi won seven of eight seats it contested. The TDP secured two seats, while the All India Forward Bloc bagged one. An Independent managed to win a seat, while TJS and CPI — part of the Congress alliance — drew a blank.
In the Northeast, the Congress lost its last state where the MNF decimated the ruling party winning 26 of the 40 seats at stake. The Congress won five, while Independents won in 8 seats. The BJP, which is in power in six of the northeastern states either directly or through allies, opened its account in the Christian-dominated Mizoram by winning a lone seat.
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh resigned taking moral responsibility for the BJP’s stunning defeat in Assembly election, while his Rajasthan counterpart Vasundhara Raje also conceded defeat.
Mizoram’s Congress Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla also resigned after the humiliating defeat.
TRS chief K. Chandrashekhar Rao said he would play a crucial role in national politics.