NEW DELHI, Dec 4
In fiercely contested assembly elections, the BJP on Thursday dealt a stunning blow to the Congress as it snatched three states from the ruling party — Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh. The party, however, could not dislodge the incumbent Congress government in Delhi.
The BJP exceeded all expectations in the Hindi heartland — even Prime Minister A B Vajpayee said he did not expect his party to do so well — and won a landslide victory in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan and stormed to power in Chattisgarh as it rode on an anti-incumbency wave against the Congress-ruled governments.
However, the BJP could not stop the Congress in Delhi where Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit ensured a second successive term for the party.
In the elections which were mainly fought on the issue of development and good governance — the Hindutva or mandir cards were hardly displayed — the BJP dealt a shock to the Congress in Madhya Pradesh by winning as many as 172 seats in a House of 230 leaving the Congress only 39 seats. It was a state in which the Congress was in power for the last 10 years and BJP’s Uma Bharti will become the first woman chief minister. She would also be the first backward class leader to assume power in the state. Rajasthan was the other state where all pollsters went wrong as the BJP cashed in on different caste combinations and a deftly managed poll strategy to romp home with an impressive margin. For the first time in the state, the BJP crossed the 100 mark in a House of 200 and secured 120 seats with the Congress getting 56.
The extent of the BJP victory could be gauged from the fact that the Congress had won 152 seats in the 1998 assembly polls. Like MP, Rajasthan too will have a woman chief minister in Vasundhara Raje for the first time. The saffron sweep was so complete in Rajasthan that many stalwarts, including two deputy chief ministers, bit the dust.
Surprise in Chattisgarh
Chattisgarh provided the third surprise for the BJP as it succeeded in reaching a majority in the controversy-ridden elections. In a state where exit polls had shown a hung assembly, the BJP returned with 50 seats while the Congress won 36, in a House of 90. The state witnessed an eventful election campaign – the highlight was BJP’s chief ministerial candidate and Union minister Dilip Singh Judeo being allegedly caught on camera accepting bribe. However, it had no impact on the BJP romping home.
While there is still no certainty as to who the new chief minister will be, the choice is said to have boiled down to state BJP president Raman Singh and Union minister Ramesh Bias. Mr Judeo has said he was not a contender for chief ministership.
As for Delhi, the national capital seemed to be the only state where the predictions actually came true. Playing the development card, the suave Ms Dikshit won the ballot for the second time in a row, forcing the BJP to seriously think whether it was proper to put in the same old faces as chief ministerial candidates. Here, the Congress won 47 seats as against the BJP’s 20 in a total House strength of 70.
With the BJP doing extremely well, there was speculation on the party seeking an advanced Lok Sabha poll. However, it was quickly dismissed by Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani and party president Venkaiah Naidu. “Elections will be held on schedule in September next year. There is no question of an early poll,” Mr Naidu said.