New Delhi: Tuesday came as a wake-up call for the BJP as its arch-rival Congress wrested two key states – Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh – from it. Madhya Pradesh, on the other hand, appeared headed for a cliffhanger with the saffron party and Congress locked in a close fight.
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.
Meanwhile, the K Chandrashekhar Rao-led TRS stormed back to power in Telangana and the Mizo National Front (MNF) dislodged the Congress in Mizoram — its last bastion in the North-East.
As voting trends and results slowly trickled in the Assembly polls in the five states that is being dubbed as a semi-final to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, 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.
Buoyed by the party’s resurgence party president Rahul Gandhi said the assembly poll outcome is a “clear message” to the Modi government that people are not happy with it and time has come for a change while asserting that his party will also win in 2019.
Hitting at the BJP for its often-stated remark of Congress-mukt (Congress-free) Bharat, Gandhi said, “the BJP has a certain ideology and we will fight against it. We have won this elections, we will also win in 2019. However, we do not want to get rid of anyone, ‘hum kisi ko mukt nahi karna chahtein’.”
Asked about the selection of chief ministers in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, he said there will not be any issue and it will be done smoothly.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated the Congress for the victories in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, Rao for TRS’ thumping win in Telangana and the MNF, which defeated the Congress in Mizoram.
“Congratulations to the Congress for their victories. Congratulations to KCR Garu for the thumping win in Telangana and to the Mizo National Front (MNF) for their impressive victory in Mizoram,” tweeted PM Modi.
“We accept the people’s mandate with humility. I thank the people of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh & Rajasthan for giving us the opportunity to serve these states. BJP Governments in these states worked tirelessly for the welfare of the people,” he added.
Rajasthan was one state where the Congress took an early lead as trends started emerging. By the end of the day, while the BJP managed to close the gap, the Congress was still leading on 101 seats while the BJP was ahead on 72. The majority mark in the state, whose 199 of the 200 Assembly seats went to polls, is 101.
The Congress Legislature Party in Rajasthan will meet Wednesday morning to discuss its leader, who will go on to be the chief minister. The two frontrunners are Rajasthan Congress Committee president Sachin Pilot and two-time chief minister Ashok Gehlot.
Submitting her resignation to Governor Kalyan Singh, outgoing Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje congratulated the Congress party and said that she is proud of the development work done by her government and respects the mandate of the people.
Madhya Pradesh, a state under the BJP rule for 15 years, was a cliff-hanger of an election with the two parties constantly just a few seats away. When the last reports came in, the BJP was leading on 111 seats while the Congress was ahead on 110.
Here, small parties and independents may play a crucial role in deciding who forms the next government in the state. According to Zee News sources, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Samajwadi Party (SP) are ready to support the Congress.
Congress sent a letter to the Madhya Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel seeking his late-night appointment to stake claim to form government in the state. The Governor, however, rejected it asserting that an appointment will be given only after the situation is made clear by the Election Commission.
The BSP and SP are leading in two seats each while a tribal political outfit, Gondwana Gantantra Party (GGP), is leading in one seat and independents are ahead in three segments.
In the 2013 poll, the BJP had won 165 seats, securing a comfortable majority in the Assembly, while confining the Congress to 58 seats.
Chhattisgarh shunted BJP’s Raman Singh out. Singh has run the state for three terms already. While the Congress was leading on 66 seats, the BJP was restricted to just 16 seats. JCC+ was leading on 7 seats. Singh took moral responsibility for the washout and quit in the evening.
Outgoing CM Raman Singh refused to pass the buck on the BJP’s national leadership over the setback after 15 years of the party’s rule in the state.
“The election was solely contested on state agenda and it is not related to Delhi. We will sit with the party workers and analyse the defeat in detail.”
“This will not reflect on the Lok Sabha election scheduled in 2019. The issues for Lok Sabha are different and election will be contested on those issues,” he said.
“It is time to work in a new role for Chhattisgarh. We will work with full vigour,” Singh said.
Telangana, where TRS’ KC Rao took the calculated risk of seeking an early election, propped him back in the saddle. The TRS was leading on 87 seats while the ‘Praja Kutami’ (People’s Front), a 4-party opposition alliance led by the Congress that included Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP, CPI and the newly formed Telangana Jana Samiti, cut a sorry figure together winning 21 seats.
Clearly, the alliance couldn’t quite touch a chord with the electorate. TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu was gracious enough to accept defeat but went on to flay the BJP for its performance.
The Congress cried foul, saying it suspected “manipulation” of the Electronic Voting Machines, and demanded that all votes be counted using the VVPAT (Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail) to ascertain the exact number of votes polled by each candidate.
The Mizo National Front (MNF) scripted a spectacular victory in Mizoram, uprooting the Congress in its last bastion in the Northeast to return to power after 10 years.
The MNF won 26 seats in the 40-member assembly, a gain of 21 seats since 2013. The Congress managed to bag only five seats compared to 34 seats it won in the 2013 assembly elections.
No party in the state has so far been able to form a government thrice in a row since 1987 when Mizoram became a full-fledged state.
Outgoing chief minister Lal Thanhawla suffered defeats from both the seats he contested, including his home turf Serchip. He also lost from Champai South constituency.