It was a day of high triumph for the ruling BJP as it swept north India, hanging on to Madhya Pradesh and pushing the Congress out of power in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.
Congress had to be satisfied with winning Telangana though this was also historic in that it defeated a regional party that had looked strongly entrenched in the state.
The BJP wins were further sweetened by the fact that it romped home in all three North Indian states by comfortable and greater-than-expected majorities in what were the last set of state elections before next year’s general elections.
Through the morning the Congress had been far out in front of the BJP In Chhattisgarh and it looked like It was heading for a certain and easy victory. However, the trend began to alter late in the morning and the BJP began to slowly climb past its rival.
The BJP in north India outdid even the most optimistic forecasts of political analysts and numbers offered by the exit polls on Friday. In Madhya Pradesh, the BJP looked set to amass over 160 seats and the Congress was left far behind in the mid-60s. That’s a very poor performance in the 230-member assembly.
Commenting on the results, Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said: "As far as Madhya Pradesh is concerned, people have given all their blessings to the double-engine government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi (at the Centre) and in the state led by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan because of its welfare and development-oriented policies.”
Scindia had good reason to be pleased by today’s results because the BJP had performed well in his stronghold, despite predictions that voters would not be pleased by his mid-term switch of allegiances to the BJP from the Congress.
Similarly, in Rajasthan, the BJP had about 113 seats and the Congress was struggling with barely around 72 in the 200-member house.
Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat gleefully told the press: “The 'magic' has ended and Rajasthan has come out of the spell of the magician. People have voted for the honour of women and for the welfare of the poor.” His reference to a magician was about current Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot whose father Laxman Singh Gehlot was a professional magician.
“People have failed the guarantees of Congress. They have voted to throw corrupt Congress out,” Shekhawat told reporters.
Even in Chhattisgarh where the Congress had forged an early lead, the BJP looked likely to get about 55 seats compared to 32 for the Congress. The prospect of losing Chhattisgarh is probably the greatest shock to hit the Congress today. The Chhattisgarh assembly has 90 seats and 46 are needed to win.
The Congress now only has Himachal Pradesh in north India. One small consolation for the Congress is that it has not lost very much in vote percentage terms. The four states are home to more than 160 million voters and account for 82 seats in the 543-member Parliament.
The Congress is slated to get 64 seats in the 119-seat Telangana assembly and it looks safe from any efforts to buy legislators.
One election analyst reckoned that the Congress had lost the tribal vote in all three North Indian states. However, the reason for this was not clear.
Inevitably, there were murmurs about an electoral north-south divide. One bright spot for the Congress is that it now looks almost certain to control Hyderabad and Bangalore, south India’s two rich tech cities. The Opposition controls most of the country’s top metros except Mumbai. However, the BJP now controls almost all the north Indian states.
The other question that’s already beginning to be asked is who will get the jobs as chief minister in the three states. In Madhya Pradesh Shivraj Singh Chouhan staked his claim early by chatting with reporters when counting was still at an early stage. Chouhan campaigned intensively and it looks like the BJP’s high command is likely to bow to reality and put Chouhan back in the state’s top job.
The fate of former Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia is less clear. The Central leadership once looked eager to keep her away from the chief minister’s job. But in recent weeks that has become less certain and several people known to be close to her were given tickets to stand for election. One theory is that some Independents who have stood for election are close to her. If their support is needed, she is almost certain to make it to the top job.
The BJP hadn’t expected to win in Chhattisgarh and the question of who will be the next chief minister is still open. Will it be former chief minister Raman Singh or another state leader? There is speculation that the next chief minister may be a woman. Incidentally, it appears that women have voted for the BJP in quite large numbers in all the three northern states.
In all the states, there have been big promises made to voters by all the parties. In Chhattisgarh, the BJP has promised 24-hour electricity, free education for girls and free health insurance. The BJP could find its resources strained if it has to keep all these promises.