Cong, BJP hold breath as 5-state voting ends

Cong, BJP hold breath as 5-state voting ends

Voters show their identity cards as they wait in queues at a polling station to cast their votes for state Assembly elections, in Jaipur, Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. (PTI Photo)

Suspense, nervousness and trepidation gripped political parties after voting concluded in Rajasthan and Telangana on Friday, setting the stage for counting of votes on December 11.

Neither the Congress nor the BJP is ready to consider the outcome of these elections as a referendum of people on the 2019 general elections.

The exit polls have given a clear edge to the Congress in Rajasthan and TRS in Telangana, a photo finish in Madhya Pradesh and a hung House in Mizoram.

But much before the exit poll predictions were out, EVM worries plagued the Congress. It’s a different matter that most of the exit polls gave Congress an edge.

On December 1, the Congress took a delegation to the Election Commission to apprise it of the party’s worries over the security of EVMs inside strong rooms and their handling during the counting process in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

Complaints included movement of suspicious people with laptops and mobile phones around the strong rooms in Dhamtari in Chhattisgarh, power cut in a strong room in Bhopal city for over an hour resulting in non-functioning of CCTV cameras and a school bus bearing no number plate and carrying EVMs reaching the Sagar district collector's office.

Obviously, the apprehension was more in Madhya Pradesh, which sends 29 Lok Sabha MPs, where the BJP had won 27 seats last time. The BJP has decided to appoint one election in-charge for each Lok Sabha seat with an ambitious target to win all 29 seats.

Put together, the five state assemblies send 83 Lok Sabha MPs - MP-29, Rajasthan- 25, Chhattisgarh-11, Telangana-17 and Mizoram-1. Of this, the BJP holds 62 seats.

It won 25 (Cong-0) in Rajasthan, 26 (Cong-3) in Madhya Pradesh, 10 in Chhattisgarh (Cong -1), one in Telangana (Congress-2) and failed to open its account in Mizoram (Cong-01).

Three of these states - MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh - is being ruled by the BJP, Mizoram by the Congress and Telangana by the TRS.

A reverse of electoral fortunes in these Assembly polls is bound to echo badly for the BJP in the next general elections.

The worry in the Congress is all the more understandable as a defeat in this round of Assembly polls could put the party in an existential crisis after it won just 44 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

The catchline of 'Abhi Nahin to Kabhi Nahin' (Never If Not Now) for the Congress in Madhya Pradesh, could actually turn out to be a larger reality beyond these state polls.

Barring Punjab, that it won last year riding on the personal charisma of Capt Amarinder Singh and a strong resentment against the Akali Dal-led NDA, the Congress has not been able to win any other state election.

It came second this year in Karnataka, a state ruled by the party where it had a strong personality in Siddaramaiah, and the BJP lost the election with a whisker, thanks to the presence of a third player - H D Deve Gowda’s JD(S).

Since 2014, when Narendra Modi-led the BJP to a historic single party majority win after 30 years, the saffron party has not looked back and won elections back to back in 15 states, including Maharashtra, Haryana, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Gujarat and Tripura.

If the BJP loses in any of three Hindi-belt states, it will be the first loss in an Assembly election after 2014 as the saffron party had put the blame on Akali Dal in Punjab.

Secondly, in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, the BJP is fighting only the Congress. A resurgence of the Congress will also take the wind of the ‘Congress Mukth” pitch.

But as of now, both parties are claiming victory in public even as they keep their fingers crossed in private.

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