NEW DELHI, December 8: The BJP has swept Rajasthan, and retained Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. In Delhi it emerged as the single largest party, five short of a clear majority. Here, Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) made a stunning debut, winning 28 seats, marking the end of 15 years of uninterrupted Congress rule in the national capital.
Government-formation in the three bigger States — Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh — looks smooth. Delhi, with a hung Assembly, faces uncertainty: the BJP said that unless it can secure a majority “in the natural process”, it would prefer to sit in the opposition.
An exhausted Sheila Dikshit, put in her papers as Chief Minister after losing the battle for Delhi and her own New Delhi seat to Mr, Kejriwal, but for the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate, Harsh Vardhan, it might turn out to be a bit of a wait.
As a stunned Congress faced a 0-4 rout in this round of Assembly elections, party president Sonia Gandhi accepted the result “with humility”, prescribing “deep introspection” for the party. Party vice-president Rahul Gandhi acknowledged the significance of the AAP’s electoral entry, saying, “The Aam Aadmi Party involved a lot of non-traditional people and we will learn from that…and will better it in a way you cannot imagine.”
BJP president Rajnath Singh said the result was an emphatic rejection of the Congress, while some of his party colleagues spoke of the need for some “chintan” as well: party spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy conceded that the rise of the AAP was a matter of concern for both the BJP and the Congress. “Regional parties are setting the national agenda. This is what happened in Delhi. A great churning is taking place,” he said.
Rajasthan’s next Chief Minister is the BJP’s Vasundhara Raje. After a nine- month-long campaign, she led her party to a landslide victory, ousting the Congress’s Ashok Gehlot from power: the BJP won 162 of the 200 seats in the Assembly. In Madhya Pradesh, Shivraj Singh Chouhan will be Chief Minister for a third term, having ensured that his party outdid its performance in 2008, winning 166 of the 230 seats.
In Chhattisgarh, on the other hand, the trends see-sawed all through the day. But in the end, the BJP won 49 seats, nine ahead of the Congress, ensuring a third consecutive triumph for chief minister Raman Singh.
As BJP workers erupted into celebrations at its party headquarters in the national capital, there was an air of despondency at the Congress office. Only party general secretary Janardan Dwivedi provided a realistic analysis for the party’s defeat, till Ms. Gandhi arrived, accompanied by several top leaders, to acknowledge that the party would have to rethink its strategy ahead of next year’s general elections. At the AAP’s office, ecstatic party workers danced, waving their brooms – the party’s evocative symbol – in the air.
Looking to 2014
For the BJP, energised by three outright triumphs in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, and its emergence at the head of the table in Delhi,it is time to look ahead to 2014 — the stage for which has been set by the “semi-final” of the Assembly polls. The BJP, under its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, is likely to go all out and corner the UPA government on a number of issues in the ongoing winter session of Parliament.
For the Congress, facing one of its worst routs in recent years, it is back to the drawing board. The emergence of the AAP on the electoral scene has shown that there is space for an alternative non-Congress, non-BJP political outfit. “If the BJP and the Congress do not transform themselves, they will be voted out by the people who are tired of corruption and poor governance,” said Mr. Kejriwal, describing Delhi’s poll outcome as a “historic mandate.”