With the counting of votes still underway in two of the five states where assembly elections were recently held, the final verdict of Tuesday, December 11, is yet to be formally declared, as late as 1 am on Wednesday. But the big picture is clear: the saffron tide that had been sweeping through India had reversed for the first time.
Although the contest in many Madhya Pradesh seats remained close as late as 1 am on Wednesday, the Congress appeared to have the edge. If the party indeed manages to wrest the state from the Bharatiya Janata Party in addition to Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, it stands to gain an impressive presence in the Hindi heartland, which the BJP had come to dominate in recent years.
Before this round of elections, the BJP was in power in 19 states, holding seven key states on its own and in an alliance government in 12 others. While the loss of three states does not end BJP’s dominance (assuming that the Congress does end up forming the government in Madhya Pradesh), it significantly dents it. Since these are expansive states, the change looks dramatic on India’s political map.
Besides the sheer expanse of territory they hold, the three states together account for 65 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha. In the past, the party that won the assembly election took most of the Lok Sabha seats in these states in the general elections that followed a few months later. But, regardless of whether the trend continues, Tuesday’s verdict is significant in its own right.
Chhattisgarh, in particular, has voted out the BJP after 15 years in a decisive verdict for change. Significantly, the Congress’s wins are spread all over the state, with impressive victories both in the central plains as well as in the forest-rich North and South.
Rajasthan, which has traditionally swung between the Congress and the BJP, was expected to vote out the Vasundhara Raje government. The BJP had swept the state in 2013 riding the first crest of the Modi wave building up ahead of the 2014 elections. Tuesday’s results show the wave is over. The blue of the Congress stretches across the state now, even though the scale of its victories might not have matched the expectations.
In Telangana, the state’s ruling party outperformed itself. Barring a small neck of land in the north-east where the Congress won a handful of seats, the rest of the state was awash in the colours of the K Chandrashekhar Rao-led Telangana Rashtra Samithi.
Another convincing win comes from Mizoram where the Mizo National Front defeated the Congress, pushing the party out of its last bastion in the North East. On a day when saffron receded from the Hindi heartland, a small dash of the colour showed up in a remote corner of this largely Christian state as the BJP opened its account here by picking up one seat in the Buddhist Chakma areas.
In Madhya Pradesh, the Congress edged out the BJP early on Wednesday taking 114 seats. The entire state was closely contested between the parties, with the BJP have a marginally higher voteshare but just 109 seats.