The BJP’s electoral rout in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram and Telangana on Tuesday set the stage for a gruelling battle of the ballot between a possible Congress-led front headed by Rahul Gandhi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi led-NDA. The latter’s attempt to come to power for a second term looks like an uphill task in view of the changed arithmetic in the five states after Assembly election results.

As news of the BJP’s defeat in Telangana, Mizoram, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Rajasthan came, the party leadership here was in a pensive and introspective mood but reposed faith in the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In the backroom confabulations within the party, the discussion was focused on the possible adverse implication of the assembly elections results on the party’s prospects in the 2019 Lok Sabha election.

Former Union minister Shahnawaz Hussain, responding to the BJP’s rout in the five states including Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan in the Hindi heartland, admitted that the election results were not up to the party’s expectations. He said the BJP would undertake an analysis of the factors responsible for the defeat in the five states.

READ | Assembly election results 2018 LIVE updates

Husain, however, asserted that assembly elections should not be linked to Lok Sabha poll. He also denied that it would be Modi versus Rahul in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. He pointed out that the Congress which was in power in Mizoram since the time of Rajiv Gandhi suffered defeat in the state as also in Telangana.

Other BJP leaders blamed the poll defeats in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan on anti-incumbency factor. BJP national spokesperson Sambit Patra denied that ‘double anti-incumbency’ did the party in. He said the tag of being Bimaru states was removed from the three states under the BJP rule.

When it was pointed out to Patra that election results were likely to translate into the Congress possibly gaining 43 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, he said all elections were a challenge. He said the Congress had claimed that it would win Uttar Pradesh assembly polls but could win only seven seats. He said the voting pattern in Lok Sabha is always different from assembly polls.

In response to a question if the poll results and Congress victory in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan were a setback for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s goal of a ‘Congress Mukt Bharat’, BJP’s Shazia Ilmi replied in negative. “That will be our constant endeavour,” she said.

The five states that had gone to polls and results of which were declared on Tuesday return a total of 83 seats to Lok Sabha. In 2014 the BJP had captured 63 of the 83 seats as against the Congress’ six seats. If the assembly elections results were to be converted into Lok Sabha seats then the Congress will be a net gainer of 46 seats, whereas the BJP tally would be reduced to just 25 seats, according to political analysts. That is likely to make the BJP’s task of coming back to power in 2019 an uphill task.