New Delhi: The BJP was racing towards power in the Hindi heartland states of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan and had a distinct edge in Chhattisgarh while the Congress was poised to oust the BRS in Telangana in a crucial electoral exercise ahead of Lok Sabha polls just months away.
As votes were counted for assembly elections to the four states on Sunday, trends on the Election Commission website threw up a patchwork that could end up with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s imprint on it. It seemed to be pro-incumbency in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh and anti-incumbency in the Congress-ruled states of Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.
The elections, which set the momentum for the 2024 polls, have seen the BJP and the Congress go head to head in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. Telangana was a direct contest between the Congress and the K Chandrashekhar Rao-led Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) that was hoping for a hat-trick.
“People have blessed BJP in three states… endorsed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership and rejected the Congress’ false promises,” Union minister Pralhad Joshi said as counting day progressed and celebrations broke out in BJP quarters in several places.
In Madhya Pradesh, the party seemed set for another term in power in Madhya Pradesh with leads in 161 seats and the Congress trailing far behind at 66 in the 230-member assembly.
“Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji is in the hearts of the people of Madhya Pradesh. The state is also in the heart of Modi ji,” said four-term Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. The BJP has been in power in the state for 18 years.
Basking in his hour of glory, he said the state government implemented schemes like the Ladli Lakshmi and Ladli Behna and a lot of work was done for the welfare of farmers, poor people and youth.
As many as 2,533 candidates were in the fray, including Chouhan and his predecessor and rival, veteran Congress leader Kamal Nath.
If the BJP looked set to retain power in the central Indian state with a decisive win, it readied to take over from the Congress in neighbouring Rajasthan that has traditionally voted alternately for the two parties.
While the saffron party was ahead in 111 seats, well over the halfway mark, the Congress had leads in 72. Voting was held in 199 seats as polling in one was put off due to the death of a candidate.
The Congress, riven by factionalism, was helmed by Ashok Gehlot in the state, but the BJP, interestingly, has no chief ministerial face.
On when the name of the new chief minister of Rajasthan will be decided, Prahlad Joshi said it will happen “very soon and smoothly”.
Taking a swipe at Gehlot, born into a family of magicians, Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat said the magic has ended and people have voted for the honour of women and for the welfare of the poor.
“The way we are moving towards a huge majority in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, it is clear that the people trust Modi’s guarantee and has rejected the Congress’ gimmicks (nautanki). Modi magic is the real magic and every other magician has failed,” added BJP spokesperson Shehzad Poonawalla.
While the trends were clear in the two states, many Congress workers still held out hope that the party would retain power in Chhattisgarh.
But it looked increasingly difficult. The day began with both parties neck and neck but as counting continued, the BJP consolidated its lead and was ahead in 53 seats and the Congress in 36 in the 90-member house.
Senior BJP leader Raman Singh told reporters in Raipur that the people had rejected Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel. Echoing his party colleagues, he said the people had demonstrated their faith in Modi’s work and guarantees and not in Baghel’s promises.
The proverbial silver lining in the dark cloud for the Congress, hoping desperately for political revival, was Telangana where it was poised to snatch power from the BRS.
The Congress was ahead in 64 seats, leaving the BRS with leads in 40 seats in the 119-member house.
While BRS leaders went into a huddle over reasons for the looming defeat, the day belonged to party Congress chief Revanth Reddy who could well be the next chief minister.
Counting began at 8 am amid tight security and huge anticipation in the four states. Votes in the fifth state that went to the polls, Mizoram, will be counted on Monday.
A three-tier security arrangement has been put in place and only people holding valid passes will be allowed to enter the counting centres, election officials said.