Congress workers celebrate victory in state assembly elections. (Photo: PTI)
New Delhi: The Congress has wrested Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan and was leading in Madhya Pradesh – all BJP Hindi heartland bastions -- as counting neared completion for the five state Assembly elections on Tuesday.
The outcome of these elections -- billed as the semi-finals before the 2019 general elections -- is looking grim for the BJP as the party was in power in Rajasthan last term and had ruled Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh since 2003.
K Chandrasekhar Rao's Telangana Rashtra Samithi has swept Telangana and is set to form the government.
Read: Telangana poll results: KCR is back in state, in one clean sweep
The Congress has, however, lost Mizoram, the only state in the Northeast not ruled by the BJP. The Mizo National Front (MNF) is the clear winner this time. It supports the NDA.
Exactly a year ago, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi had taken over the party. Winning two states and coming within a fighting chance of a third in the Hindi heartland is the Congress’ biggest haul in the last five years.
At the Congress party office, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi credited her son’s hard work for the victories.
The 48-year-old spoke at 82 rallies, and took every opportunity to tear into Prime Minister Narendra Modi – from the Rafale to Nirav Modi issues. "Chowkidaar chor hai," was his war cry.
In the evening, Gandhi paid rich tributes to party workers in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh where the party won. "I also thank workers where we lost. This is the victory of the Congress worker. In difficult circumstances, he or she has stood up and worked for our ideology," he said. He added: "We have a commitment to the people who have voted us. I thank the BJP chief ministers for their work over terms."
He said what had a big impact these elections was the ruling disposition's inability to understand the agriculture sector. He predicted it would be very difficult for the Prime Minister and BJP to win the elections next year.
Madhya Pradesh: The fight here was a nail-biter between the Congress and the BJP the whole day, but the Opposition managed to get a slim lead by early evening. The BJP has ruled MP since 2003. It had a significant majority of 165 seats in the 230-seat Assembly in 2013. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan hopes for a fourth term in office was fast diminishing, but it is to his credit that the BJP gave such a close fight while burdened with a 15-year anti-incumbency.
Smelling victory in this very important state, the Congress went overboard in the evening trying to stitch a coalition with other parties and Independents as it was falling short of the simple majority of 116 seats.
Congress leaders contacted the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Samajwadi Party (SP), Gondwana Gantantra Party (GGP) and Independents who were leading, sources said.
Governor Anandiben Patel's role will be key in government formation.
Leads: Congress -- 114, BJP -- 109, BSP -- 2, Others -- 5. (Seats: 230)
Rajasthan: Rajasthan, which alternates between the Congress and the BJP, has true to form voted for the Congress, as predicted by the exit polls. The party is hovering around the simple majority of 100 seats in the 199 seats that went to votes. Rajasthan has a 200-member Assembly but polling on Alwar's Ramgarh constituency was postponed following the death of the BSP candidate.
The Rajasthan Congress legilative unit will meet on Wednesday, seek views of MLAs and senior leaders on who should be chief minister. The final decision will depend on the Congress highcommand, leaders said at a press meet in the evening, which was attended by the two CM hopefuls Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot.
Also Read: Rajasthan election results: Congress wins, but who will be chief minister?
Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s promise to allay agrarian distress if voted to power has been one of the single-most factor behind the party’s good show. Apart from that, Vasundhara Raje’s perceived arrogance, her alienation from the RSS, not being on the same page with Modi and Shah and anti-incumbency went against the BJP government in the state.
Leads: Congress -- 101, BJP -- 73, BSP -- 6, Others -- 19. (Seats: 199)
Chhattisgarh: This state too has been ruled by the BJP since 2003, but the incumbent party faces a rout this time. The Congress is marching towards a significant majority leaving the BJP far behind and dashing outgoing chief minister Raman Singh's hopes for a fourth shot at the chair. The third angle these elections -- the Ajit Jogi-Mayawati combine -- has also done well.
This was a prestige battle for three-term Chief Minister Raman Singh of the BJP and the Opposition Congress' fight for resurgence. This time, the coalition between Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), former chief minister Ajit Jogi's Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (J) and Communist Party of India (CPI) added another dimension to the electoral politics of the state which has been dominated by the BJP and the Congress. But the combine but did not impact the Congress' vote share.
Leads: Congress -- 67, BJP -- 15, BSP+ -- 7, Others -- 1. (Seats: 90)
Also Read: Chhattisgarh election results: Congress makes inroads in central state
Telangana: The Telangana Rashtra Samithi is set to form its second successive government in the state as the people have returned it to power with a thumping majority, a ringing endorsement of party chief K Chandrasekhar Rao’s populist policies.
It was evident as soon as the counting started that the TRS juggernaut would not falter till it had captured the Assembly. The party has managed a little less than 90 seats so far in the 119-seat Assembly.
Maiden polls for the Assembly were held on December 7 with a voter turnout of 73.20 per cent. The previous polls were held in the united Andhra Pradesh. Telangana was carved out of Andhra Pradesh in 2014. The Assembly polls in Telangana were originally scheduled to be held simultaneously with the Lok Sabha elections next year, but the House was dissolved on September 6 as per a recommendation by the state Cabinet.
Leads: TRS -- 878, Congress -- 21, BJP -- 1, Others -- 9. (Seats: 119)
Mizoram: The Mizo National Front has won the state with 26 seats. In a way, the BJP opens an account in Mizoram too -- it rules the other six Northeast sisters -- as the MNF is a part of the NEDA (North-East Democratic Alliance) and the NDA.
MNF president Zoramthanga has, however, ruled out any coalitions.
He said: "We will not have any coalition government either with the BJP or any other because my party can form the government on its own. We're a part of the NEDA (North-East Democratic Alliance) and the NDA but we wouldn't like to join the Congress or UPA."
Zoramthanga added: "My first priorities will be three things — to impose prohibition on liquor, repair roads and implement Social Economic Development Programme (SEDP) which is our flagship programme."
Mizoram was the last bastion of the Congress in the Northeast. In the 2013 elections, the Congress had won 34 seats, while its main opposition the Mizo National Front (MNF) got five seats and the Mizoram People's Conference bagged one seat. This time, Congress' two-term chief minister Lal Thanhawla has lost both from Serchhip and Champhai South. The Congress and the MNF have ruled Mizoram since 1987. The BJP, which set its eyes on the state this time, got one seat and increased its vote share to 8 per cent. All other Northeastern states are now ruled either by the saffron party or others supported by it.
Leads: MNF -- 26, Congress -- 5, BJP -- 1, Others -- 8. (Seats: 40)
Much was at stake for the BJP in these results that are seen as the semi-finals to next year’s general elections in April or May. The BJP came to these polls with significant reverses in Lok Sabha and Assembly bypolls held since 2014. In the last bypolls on May 28, across 11 states, the Opposition had picked up 11 of the 14 seats, while the BJP got 3. The BJP’s strength in the Lok Sabha has also come down to 272 from 282 in 2014.
A resurgent Congress has everything to be happy about with the results. According to analysts, what could have worked for the Congress was the promise of waiving off farmers’ loans in all states if voted to power. The party also played the soft Hindutva card to the hilt, promising cow protection in its manifestoes in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. The party also kept at bay infighting in both these states.
The outcomes of these elections will have a significant impact next year as Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh have 65 Lok Sabha seats, of which the BJP had won 62 in the 2014 Narendra Modi wave.
Here is a quick look at how parties fared in 2013:
Madhya Pradesh: BJP had won 165 of the total 230 seats, Congress 58 and other 7. Exit polls this time called it a very close fight.
Rajasthan: BJP had won 163 of the 200 seats, Congress 21 and others 16. Exit polls this time handed over the state to the Congress.
Chhattisgarh: BJP had won 49 of the 90 seats, Congress 39 and others 2. This state too has been called a close fight by exit polls.
Telangana: TRS had got 63, Congress 21 and BJP 5 of the total 119 seats. Exit polls have overwhelmingly voted in favour of the TRS this time.
Mizoram: Congress had got 34 of the 40 seats with the Mizo National Front bagging 5 and other 1. This time the advantage is with the MNF, according to exit polls.