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New Delhi, December 11: The Congress is looking at its strongest finish in state elections in recent times – sweeping Chhattisgarh, in position to win Rajasthan, and is ahead of the BJP in a cliffhanger in Madhya Pradesh, with big gains in all three states. Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated the Congress in tweets, saying, “We accept the people’s mandate with humility.”
He also congratulated K Chandrashekhar Rao of the Telangana Rashtriya Samiti (TRS) for his sweep of Telangana and the Mizo National Front (MNF) for winning Mizoram.
A short while before that, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi said it was “time for change,” crediting party workers for his party’s performance and promised “strong governments” in the states that his party set to win.
“This is a clear message to the prime minister and the BJP that the country is not happy with what they are doing… the BJP has a certain ideology and we will fight against it. We have won this elections, we will also win in 2019,” Gandhi said at a press conference on Tuesday evening, adding, “However, we do not want to get rid of anyone, hum kisi ko mukt nahi karna chahtein,” a dig at the BJP’s Congress-mukt BHarat (Congress-free India) campaign.
Votes are being counted today in five states in what has been billed as the semi final before next year’s Lok Sabha election. Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have been ruled for the last 15 years by the BJP and Rajasthan for the last five. The party had also won 60 of the total 65 parliament seats in these heartland states as it swept the 2014 general elections, in which the Congress was reduced to its lowest tally ever in the Lok Sabha.
In Telangana, K Chandrashekhar Rao is prepping to take oath again, set to return as chief minister with a big win in the assembly elections. In Mizoram, the Congress has lost its last bastion in the north east to the Mizo National Front.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and her Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal, both of who yesterday attended a meeting of 21 opposition parties to discuss an anti-BJP front, cheered today’s election result. “The countdown to 2019 has begun. This result will be reflected at the national level,” said West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, calling it a “disaster for” the BJP. Kejriwal said “The countdown of the Modi government’s fall has begun,” Kejriwal tweeted in Hindi.
Almost 12 hours after counting began, the Congress continued to flirt with the majority mark of 100 seats, way ahead of the BJP. The party has an offer of support from the Rashtriya Lok Dal, which has won a single seat. A party or alliance needs 100 seats to win a majority in the 200-member Rajasthan assembly; voting was held in 199 seats as a candidate died in one constituency. The BJP is leading in 70 seats. In 2013, the Congress had won only 23 seats as the BJP snatched an absolute majority with 163 seats.
In Madhya Pradesh, the closest contest for most part of the day, the Congress is leading in 111 seats, up 53 from last time, and the BJP in 110, down 55. Earlier in the day, the Congress reached out to Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party, the Samajwadi Party and the GGP (Gondwana Ganatantra Party), sources said, to request support if it fails to make the majority mark. A party needs to win 116 seats in the state’s 230-member assembly to form government.
The BSP has said it “will try and stop the BJP from forming government”; the party is leading in two seats in Madhya Pradesh.
Chhattisgarh has been swept by the Congress, which is leading in 68 of the state’s 90 seats, a two-thirds majority and a gain of 29 seats from last time. A party needs 46 to form government in the state. The BJP is ahead in only 16 seats.
The big Congress gains in these heartland states will be a huge morale booster for the party led by Rahul Gandhi who is often taunted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah for a series of debacles in state elections since the 2014 general elections. As it lost state after state, the only bright spot was Punjab, which the party wrested from the Akali Dal-BJP combine last year and the small state of Puducherry, which it retained, in 2016.
PM Modi and Amit Shah led the offensive against the Congress in attacking campaigns as the BJP sought a fourth straight term in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and to retain Rajasthan, which it took from the Congress in 2013.
In southern state Telangana, the country’s youngest, Rao, popularly called KCR, established his supremacy early today, never looking back. His TRS was leading in a whopping 87 seats, way more than the 60 it needs for a majority in the 119 member assembly.
The TRS, which spearheaded the Telangana statehood campaign that culminated in the creation of India’s youngest state out of Andhra Pradesh in June 2014, took a gamble in September when it opted for early elections almost a year ahead and CM Rao dissolved the assembly.
KCR faced a united challenge from the Congress, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the Left that have formed a ‘mahakootami’ (grand alliance) to unseat the TRS. The BJP fought separately and is now leading only in one seat.
In Mizoram, the Mizo National Front (MNF) is all set to return to power after a gap of 10 years by defeating the Congress in its last bastion in the northeast with a lead of 26 seats. Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla of the Congress lost both the seats he contested. (Agencies)