Scripting a new narrative of its revival and resurgence in the country’s politics — especially in the crucial electoral politics of the Hindi heartland — just ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, the Congress party wrested two states, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, from the BJP, even as it was locked in a gruelling neck-and-neck battle with the latter in Madhya Pradesh till last reports came in.
In two other state Assembly polls whose outcome was declared on Tuesday following day-long counting, the incumbent Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) retained power in Telangana as it swept the state, trouncing the Congress-TDP combine comprehensively.
In Mizoram, the Opposition Mizo National Front (MNF) defeated the ruling Congress decisively, securing a landslide victory in the last bastion of the latter in the Northeast region.
It was however the Congress’s clear victory in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and its performance in Madhya Pradesh, which signalled the comeback of the Grand Old Party which had been suffering defeat after defeat at all levels across the country since 2014 when the Narendra Modi-led BJP had ousted it from power at the Centre.
Madhya Pradesh proved to be a marathon cliffhanger as the state witnessed a see-saw battle between the BJP and the Congress till late tonight, with the Congress winning and leading in a total of 113 seats as against the BJP’s 110 seats in the 230-member state Assembly.
The BJP had been ruling Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh for 15 years under the leadership of chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and CM Raman Singh respectively, even as the saffron party, led by CM Vasundhara Raje, had been in power in Rajasthan since 2013.
The Congress displayed a spectacular performance in Chhattisgarh, ending Raman Singh’s uninterrupted three-term rule. Led by low-profile state leaders like Pradesh Congress chief Bhupesh Baghel and the state Opposition leader T S Singhdeo, the Congress achieved a landslide victory in the state where it had never won an assembly poll after it was carved out of Madhya Pradesh in 2000.
Singh submitted his resignation to the Governor and said he accepted responsibility for the BJP’s rout. “We (party) will sit and introspect,” he told reporters in Raipur.
The trends and results available late tonight indicated that the Congress was set to win 68 seats in the 90-member Chhattisgarh Assembly while the BJP would manage to win only 16 seats.
The Congress dislodged Raje from power in Rajasthan even though it could not clinch a big victory in the state which has traditionally witnessed a rotational government between the two arch rivals.
The Congress’s campaign in Rajasthan was spearheaded by state chief Sachin Pilot and senior leader Ashok Gehlot, both of whom are frontrunners for the CM’s post. Raje handed over her resignation to Governor Kalyan Singh in Jaipur. The Congress was heading towards majority in Rajasthan and was set to win 99 out of total 199 seats as against the BJP’s 73 seats.
Three-time Madhya Pradesh CM Chouhan put up a fierce fight despite reeling under anti-incumbency, managing to restrict the Congress short of a simple majority. He won his own election from the Budhni constituency, but a slew of his ministers were reportedly defeated.
Led by state Congress president Kamal Nath and campaign chief Jyotiraditya Scindia, the Congress fought hard in Madhya Pradesh.
The K Chandrashekar Rao-led TRS bagged a massive win to form its second successive government in Telangana. Rao himself won by a margin of over 51,000 votes from his Gajwel seat. “TRS dedicates victory in Assembly poll to Telangana people,” Rao told mediapersons in Hyderabad. He said Telangana proved to be a non-Congress, non-BJP state and that the TRS will play crucial role in national politics.
Rao had dissolved the Telangana Assembly in September ~ eight months ahead of the expiry of its term ~ in a political gamble that paid off well for him. The TRS had a landslide triumph in Telangana winning 88 seats in the 119-member House. The Congress and its ally TDP managed to win only 19 and 2 seats respectively.
The MNF sailed through comfortably in Mizoram, winning 26 of the total 40 seats as against the Congress’s five seats. Mizoram CM and Congress leader Lal Thanhawla lost from both his Serchhip and Champhai South seats.
The outcome of this round of Assembly polls, which could be a bellwether for the coming general elections, clearly boosted the leadership profile of Congress president Rahul Gandhi who had all along been flayed for his party’s poor showings in state after state earlier. This also came on the first anniversary of his appointment as Congress president.
Buoyed by his party’s victory in the Hindi heartland, Gandhi, who had vigorously campaigned in these polls dubbed as the “semi-finals to the 2019 general elections”, said their outcome was a “clear message” to the Modi government that people were not happy with it and that it was “now time for change”.
Gandhi told a news conference at the party headquarters here this evening that the public resentment against the Modi regime was building up due to its “inability” to address farmers’ distress, its “failure” to provide jobs to youths and its alleged involvement in corruption. Gandhi also listed PM Modi’s “demonetisation” move and his alleged corruption in Rafale case to reinforce his charges.
He said the Congress along with a combined Opposition will fight the 2019 general elections on these issues, asserting that “we will win the 2019 Lok Sabha polls”.
Thanking people and party workers for the Congress’s performance in these states, Gandhi said, “We are going to provide these three states with a vision for overall development”.
Asked about the party’s CM candidates in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, Gandhi said this issue would not cause any hiccups and would be resolved smoothly.