New Delhi: A resurgent Congress on Tuesday made significant gains in the Assembly elections, dealing a body blow to the BJP in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan and was locked in a cliffhanger in Madhya Pradesh.
The reverses for the BJP in the Hindi heartland threw wide open the 2019 Lok Sabha elections which until a few months ago appeared to be in the grip of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party.
The Assembly polls held for five states also saw the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) recording a landslide win for a second consecutive term and the Mizo National Front (MNF) scripting a spectacular victory dislodging the Congress in its last bastion in the Northeast to return to power after 10 years.
Buoyed by the Congress’ good showing in the polls that was dubbed as a semi-final for the 2019 general elections, party president Rahul Gandhi said the outcome is a “clear message” to the Modi government that people are not happy with it and time has come for a change.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi got a massive mandate but refused to listen to “heartbeat of the country”, Gandhi told reporters.
With Congress set to form governments in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan and locked in a close fight in Madhya Pradesh, Gandhi said the selection of chief ministers in the three states will be done “smoothly”.
“We have defeated the BJP in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh… There will be no issue over (selection of) chief minister. It will be done smoothly.”
Modi congratulated the Congress, the TRS and the MNF for their victories and said the BJP accepts people’s mandate with humility.
“Victory and defeat are an integral part of life. Today’s results will further our resolve to serve people and work even harder for the development of India,” he said.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the results were certainly not as expected and asserted the poll outcome was an opportunity to pause and analyse.
In a shock result, the Congress ended Chief Minister Raman Singh’s uninterrupted 15-year rule in Chhattisgarh. It won 22 and was leading in 46 in the 90-member House while the BJP was relegated to a distant second spot winning 3 and ahead in 13, according to latest trends available with the Election Commission.
Raman Singh submitted his resignation to Governor Anandiben Patel and said he accepts responsibility for BJP’s poor showing.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje too handed over her resignation to Governor Kalyan Singh in Jaipur.
The Congress was heading towards majority in the desert state, winning 87 seats and leading in another 12 out of 199 seats.
The BJP had 72 seats in its kitty and was ahead in one.
As voting trends and results slowly trickled, the Congress, which had just 58 seats in the outgoing Assembly in Madhya Pradesh, was set to cross the 100 mark in a House of 230.
The Congress was winning or leading in 113 seats while for the BJP this was 110.
According to Election Commission data, both the BJP and the Congress had around 41.2 per cent votes each.
Three-time Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who was battling anti-incumbency, won the Budhni seat but a dozen ministers were trailing behind Congress candidates.
Senior Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia said the trends reflected people’s desire for a change in Madhya Pradesh while state Congress chief Kamal Nath exuded confidence they will form the government in the state.
“Trends show Congress marching ahead to victory in Rajasthan, MP and Chhattisgarh. We are confident the trend will continue across the country,” Congress leader Sachin Pilot said in Jaipur.