The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Winners and losers

New Delhi, Dec. 4: It was a canvas of contrasting colours: wan smiles and glum faces, and jubilant smiles and glowing faces.

The winners and losers of this grand semi-final to the Lok Sabha polls next year wore their hearts on their sleeve through the day as results poured in, punching the Congress in the face and blessing the BJP with huge electoral gains.

Digvijay Singh, the scalded Congress chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, suddenly had an air of being lost in the woods. “I have decided not to contest elections for the next 10 years,” he said after being summarily pushed out of the state he ruled for a decade. His Congress counterpart in Chhattisgarh, who was also edged out, was without his usual brashness. A sober Ajit Jogi said: “I accept the verdict of the people with utmost humility. We will play out the role of the Opposition.”

The only happy face in the despondent Congress crowd was Sheila Dikshit’s — the sole chief minister to land her party on the safe shores of Delhi a second consecutive time.

In the morning, even before the results started coming in, reporters chatted with the chief minister at her breakfast table. “I do not know what has worked. All I can say is I have a long association with this city, which has given me my education and my career. I would only want to serve its people better and better,” she said.

While most victors crowed on multiple television channels, at party headquarters and on the streets, Vasundhara Raje, the future BJP chief minister of Rajasthan, left her home early in the morning to do puja before heading towards her constituency of Jhalwa Patan.

“I owe it to the people of my constituency to visit them before going to Jaipur,” she said.

“It is the mandate of the people that is behind the victory of my party. Both me and my party are incidental. The people are supreme.”

But the biggest achiever of all -- BJP’s Uma Bharti who took Madhya Pradesh by storm -- was missing from the noise and the glare of the media and the public.

The sanyasin spent the whole of yesterday at her guruji’s ashram in Udupi in Karnataka while political bigwigs and other chief ministerial candidates were notching up figures and swotting over predictions.

She was missing from the celebrations till this evening while a battery of reporters waited for her to arrive in Bhopal.

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, who was perhaps the biggest casualty of all in this battle, went to Parliament as usual at 11 in the morning and sat through the proceedings.

But her worried expression showed her and her party’s discomfiture as the series of defeats was tantamount to a challenge to her leadership.

Later, she and deputy chief minister L.K. Advani shared a platform at a Navy Day function. “I was hoping for more states. The results are somewhat disappointing. Obviously, the people were expecting more from us,” Sonia said.

Answering a question, she said: “Yes, the anti-incumbency factor has worked in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, but I was most disappointed in Rajasthan because we had done a lot of work there. There were five years of a terrible drought. We have now to pull up our socks and do more.”

“I feel a sense of satisfaction,” Advani said. “I do not see early polls. We will go to Lok Sabha polls with our five-year track record. It is significant that these Assembly polls have focussed (more) on development, governance and less on politics.”

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