Ch'garh, Raj in Cong kitty, ahead in MP
New Delhi: A resurgent Congress 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 the ruling 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 ten years.
Conceding defeat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated the Congress, Telangana's K Chandrashekar Rao and the Mizo National Front for their victories and said, "We accept the 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 in another tweet.
Buoyed by 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. 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".
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the results were indeed 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 Chattisgarh. 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 the 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.
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.
In Chhattisgarh, the Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (J) of former chief minister Ajit Jogi was ahead in five seats while the CPI and the Gondwana Gantantra Party and the CPI (M) were leading in one seat each.
The trends in the desert state of Rajasthan showed the Congress is inching towards the magic mark of 100 in Rajasthan, winning 22 and leading in 78. The outcome reflected the 20-year "revolving door" trend of voters in choosing the BJP and the Congress alternately. The ruling BJP won 15 and leading in 58 of the 199 seats which went to polls. The BJP and the Congress had 163 and 21 seats in the outgoing House.
Independents won three and were leading in nine.
The Congress will hold its legislature party meeting in Jaipur to decide on who will be the chief minister.
Former chief minister Ashok Gehlot and Pilot are frontrunners for the top post.
With agency inputs