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Cong upbeat on MP, worried over Delhi

New Delhi, Nov. 26: The Congress is confident of winning Chhattisgarh and coming close to a shot at power in Madhya Pradesh, but is jittery about Delhi and Rajasthan. It expects no surprises in Mizoram and hopes to be voted back.

The mood is most upbeat about Chhattisgarh with the state party unit conveying its optimism to the high command and some leaders already shifting focus to another contentious issue — the tussle for the chief minister’s post.

But it is the feedback from Madhya Pradesh, which voted yesterday, that has created the biggest ripples of excitement. Most senior leaders insist the fight is too close to call and any party could form the government. Some felt the BSP would get a significant number of seats and the Congress should be able to sew up simple majority eventually.

The feedback from the state units has boosted hopes in the party that had so far been grappling with predictions of doom in opinion polls.

No survey had given even an outside chance to the Congress in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, though the picture was less clear on Rajasthan and Delhi. Ironically, the Congress itself does not appear confident about Rajasthan, and is slowly getting apprehensive about Delhi, too.

Senior leaders now say they would be extremely surprised if the BJP is not ousted in Chhattisgarh where even conservative estimates put the Congress tally at 46 out of the 90 seats, while some sections believe it could cross 50.

Former chief minister Ajit Jogi exudes the optimism. “We have fought well and the candidates believe the BJP was not in a position to retain power. The tide turned in the first phase of polling in Maoist-infested tribal areas where we expect to gain at least 10 seats. We are not doing badly in the plains either and even top BJP ministers appear to be struggling. We will certainly return to power,” Jogi told The Telegraph.

While party leaders had always been confident about Chhattisgarh, the real surprise came from the much bigger Madhya Pradesh where BJP chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan was widely seen retaining power easily.

A senior Congress leader explained the reasons after yesterday’s voting. “Some opinion polls showed the BJP increasing its margin. We can safely say the Congress will vastly improve its performance and the BJP may fall short of a majority. Even the chief minister realised there was a crisis, appealed to voters not to judge his MLAs and instead vote for him. This ploy never succeeds when people are angry.”

In Delhi where elections will be held on December 4, the situation seems the opposite. Senior leaders admit only popular MLAs and good candidates can pull it off as there is visible anger against the Congress and people from all sections of society want change.

Party leaders have pinned hopes on the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to slice away chunks of anti-incumbency votes to prevent the BJP from reaching the goalpost. “The worst scenario should be a hung Assembly. If we can’t form the government, no other party can. But there is still some time left and we hope to claw back,” a Delhi leader said.

Rajasthan, which votes on December 1, was never a good case to start with and even die-hard Congress optimists believe the Ashok Gehlot-led party government is struggling to recover ground.

On balance, Congress leaders say snatching either Chhattisgarh or Madhya Pradesh would be a big achievement and the BJP won’t be able to claim a wave in its favour. And if the two states and Mizoram fall into its kitty, it will boost the party’s hopes of halting the Narendra Modi juggernaut.