Raipur: As predicted by exit polls, the Congress on Tuesday appeared headed for a landslide win in Chhattisgarh. This will be a major blow to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which has ruled the state for 15 long years.

After the third round of vote count, Congress candidates were ahead of their rivals in 58 of the 90 seats in the battle for an Assembly where the half-way mark is 46.

BJP candidates were ahead in 24 constituencies. While Chief Minister Raman Singh managed to reverse the trend after initially trailing to the Congress, all his cabinet Ministers were way behind their rivals.

The alliance of Janta Congress Chhattisgarh of former Chief Minister Ajit Jogi and the Bahujan Samaj Party was leading in seven constituencies.

There will be a total of 22 rounds of the vote count. In the outgoing Assembly, the BJP had 49 members and the Congress 39.

All the exit polls agreed that former chief minister Ajit Jogi’s Janta Congress Chhattisgarh and the BSP may get to play the kingmaker in case of a hung Assembly.

Eyeing a fourth consecutive term, the BJP has set a target of winning 65 plus seats in the 72-member Assembly, while the Congress is seeking to end its 15-year exile from power in the tribal-dominated state.

For the first time, the state will see a three-way battle between the BJP, the Congress and the coalition between the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), former chief minister Ajit Jogi’s Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (J) and the Communist Party of India (CPI).

While Jogi is seen a kingmaker in the state where the vote share difference between the BJP and the Congress was less than one per cent in 2013, the former has denied possibilities of any post-poll alliance with the saffron party.

The BJP has retained state Assembly Speaker Gaurishankar Agrawal from the Kasdol seat, which he had won against Congress’ Rajkamal Singhaniya in the 2013 elections.