Setback to BJP in Hindi heartland; looses elections.
Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh account for 65 seats in the Lok Sabha and went overwhelmingly with the BJP in the 2014 polls.
Tuesday’s counting of votes for the three States of the so-called “Hindi heartland” saw the Congress winning big in Chhattisgarh, forming the government in Rajasthan and staking claim to form the government in Madhya Pradesh as it inches ahead of the BJP (counting was still on at the time of writing), and a reversal of fortunes for the BJP that will have ramifications for national politics.
The three States account for 65 seats in the Lok Sabha and went overwhelmingly with the BJP in the 2014 election.
Both Dr. Raman Singh and Vasundhara Raje, Chief Ministers of the BJP-led governments in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, tendered their resignations to the Governors.
“I take responsibility for this defeat because the poll was contested under my leadership. We will act as a strong Opposition [party] and work for the development of the State,” Dr. Singh said after resigning.
Ms. Raje, while congratulating the victors, expressed the hope that the Congress government would take her own regime’s policies forward.
In Chhattisgarh, the Congress won a clear majority, winning 68 seats in the 90-member House, while in Rajasthan, it touched the half-way mark together with its allies. That leaves the field clear for the formation of Congress-led governments in both States.
In Madhya Pradesh, however, a see-saw battle raged on the counting tables for most of the day with the results expected either late at night or in the early hours of Wednesday. State Congress chief Kamal Nath has, however, written to Governor Anandiben Patel seeking time to stake claim to form the government as the “single largest party” as per the results. The State is seeing a gritty battle where neither the BJP nor the Congress seems to be ceding an inch.
The selection of a Chief Minister in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan is the next task for the Congress. The central observer for the election of Chief Minister from the Congress Legislature Party for Rajasthan, K.C. Venugopal, is already in Jaipur, while senior Congress MP Mallikarjun Kharge will most likely be the central observer for Chhattisgarh and will visit the State on Thursday.
Despite no clarity in the number of seats the party has won, the Madhya Pradesh Congress has scheduled a meeting of its legislators for Wednesday afternoon, with A.K. Antony as central observer.
Among the front-runners for the Chief Minister’s post in Chhattisgarh are not just State Congress chief Bhupesh Baghel, but the legislature party leader in the just voted out Assembly, T.S. Singh Deo, as well as Durg MP Tamradhwaj Sahu, who was fielded in this election too.
In Rajasthan, the choice is between Congress chief Sachin Pilot and AICC general secretary and former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. If the Congress wins Madhya Pradesh, here too the choice will have to be made between Mr. Kamal Nath and campaign committee chief Jyotiraditya Scindhia, who are Lok Sabha members too.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a tweet later in the day said, “We accept the people’s mandate with humility.”
“I thank the people of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan for giving us the opportunity to serve these States. The BJP governments in these States worked tirelessly for the welfare of the people, ” Mr. Modi said. He congratulated the Congress on their victories.
The ripples of the verdict will be felt in the coming days, immediately in the winter session of Parliament. The Opposition is expected to be more aggressive, but more important is the morale boost for the Congress just before the 2019 election.
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