NEW DELHI: In a severe jolt to the BJP in the Hindi heartland in the “semi-finals” ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress on Tuesday knocked the saffron party out of power in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan and was slightly ahead in Madhya Pradesh where the two parties were engaged in a see-saw battle throughout the day.
Suffering his worst defeat since coming to power in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted late in the night that he accepted the verdict with humility and would work with greater vigor for the people.
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The highlight of the day was the ding-dong battle between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress in Madhya Pradesh where leads alternated between the two sides with Congress getting a slight edge by winning 63 seats and leading in 51 in the 230-member House. On its own, the Congress is ahead in 114 seats, including those won.
The Congress had won 58 seats in the last election. A nearly 3 percent swing in votes against BJP hit the party hard in the elections where agrarian unrest, unemployment and the ill effects of demonetization dominated the campaign.
The Congress, which may be falling short of the magic figure of 116, could look to get backing from the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which is leading in 2 seats, and the Samajwadi Party (SP), which is ahead in one, besides Independents, most of whom are Congress rebels and leading in four seats. The SP said it will back the Congress.
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Facing a stiff anti-incumbency, the BJP under Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, which had won 165 seats in 2013, was pushed down to 109 seats with 60 wins and leading in 49 seats. The party has been in power for the last 15 years in the state.
The Congress took a sweet revenge against the BJP halting its bid for a fourth consecutive term in the neighboring Chhattisgarh by returning to power with a massive victory. In the election for the 90-member Assembly, the Congress won 33 seats and was leading in 35, while the BJP won only 6 seats and was ahead in 10 others. The alliance of former Ajit Jogi-led Janta Congress Chhattisgarh and Mayawati-led BSP fared poorly leading in all in only six seats together.
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In the 2013 elections, the BJP had won 49 seats against the Congress’ 39. The saffron party saw a huge negative swing of 8 percent from 41 percent it had secured in the last elections, while Congress’ fortunes improved drastically when it got 3 percent more votes at 42 percent.
Rajasthan proved true to the 20-year old tradition of voting out the ruling party. The battle was won by the Congress which has bagged 95 seats and was ahead in 4 seats, while the ruling BJP won 73 seats. The Congress, which is just short of halfway mark of 101, saw its ally Rashtriya Lok Dal winning one seat. The BSP won six seats and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) had won 2 seats. The two parties had fought against both the Congress and the BJP.
The Bharatiya Tribal Party won two seats and the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party bagged 3 seats. Independents, comprising mostly Congress and BJP rebels, had a field day when 12 of them won and another was leading.
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The Congress, which had a disastrous performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and suffering successive defeats in various Assembly elections, smiled for the first time defeating the BJP in a direct contest in 3 crucial states in north India.
Party president Rahul Gandhi, who campaigned vigorously, said the Assembly election results were a referendum on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s non-performance on issues of unemployment, agrarian distress, corruption and negate the ill effects of demonetization.
This was countered by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who said issues in state elections are entirely different. The BJP won Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh in 2003 but lost the Lok Sabha elections next year, he said.
The general elections in 2019 would be fought around the performance of Modi where people will vote for the tried and tested leadership against a non-ideological opposition coalition which is bound to collapse sooner than later, he added.