BJP Down 180 Seats, Congress Up 162 In Three Hindi-Heartland States

Congress leads in three BJP-ruled states, TRS in Telangana

The Congress has won in the states of Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and fell just short of an outright majority in Madhya Pradesh in a neck-and-neck finish.

In Rajasthan, the Congress was leading in 114 of the 199 seats contested, against 81 for the BJP, in the initial round of voting, India Today TV said.

Madhya Pradesh Congress president Kamal Nath wrote to the Governor Anandiben Patel at 10.30 pm seeking a meeting with her late night on Tuesday "as soon as the results are declared". Meanwhile, the Congress party in the state is facing an internal conflict: If the party wins in the state, it will have to select a Chief Ministerial candidate from between political rivals Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot. The setback has presented a major challenge to the party that now holds the reins at the centre and is seeking a second term in the general elections due in April next year. He had campaigned extensively for his party in the three states.

Television footage showed jubilant Congress workers bursting firecrackers and dancing at regional party offices. Congress is leading in 94 constituencies and BJP is ahead on 80 seats while as many as 14 Independents are surging ahead.

So what happened? While it's too early to have a full picture of why voters rejected the BJP in all five states, economic issues likely played an important role.

Those losses, as well as the revival of a Congress party frequently written off in the past five years, had analysts revising their predictions for next year's national polls, which Modi had been expected to win in a cakewalk.

But the ploy, which included a pledge by the RSS to revive the Ramjanmabhoomi movement of 1992-93 which led to the Babri masjid's demolition, failed to check the Congress's revival and the signs of erosion of the BJP's base of support.

Three other TV channels also said Congress was leading in the three states, with regional parties leading in two smaller states that also voted, Telangana in the south and Mizoram in the northeast.

Mizoram and Telangana were won by regional parties, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi and the Mizo National Front, respectively. This is a shift of power to a "more conservative and vernacular elite" which seems to have escaped the Congress. The BJP previously ruled all three, for three terms in two of them. In Rajasthan, it led by 0.5 percentage point.

What remains abundantly clear is that the 2019 general elections will be a referendum on Mr Modi. As many as 1,321 farmers committed suicide in MP in 2016, the highest since 2013, according to government data.

"What was promised by Modi has not been delivered...that question does arise".

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