The BJP cruised towards victory on Saturday in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand while the Congress brutally brushed aside the AAP in Punjab as officials counted the millions of votes polled in assembly polls. The Congress led in Manipur while it was neck and neck in Goa with the BJP. Proving wrong fears of a hung assembly in Uttar Pradesh, the Bharatiya Janata Party, its aggressive campaign led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, led in 274 of the 379 seats where counting trends were available after two and a half hours of vote count. The ruling Samajwadi Party and its ally the Congress trailed at a poor second spot (75 seats) while the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) was gasping at 30 seats.
As celebrations erupted at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi and the BJP office in Lucknow, Congress leaders admitted that Uttar Pradesh was a huge setback but took pride in the showing in Punjab. “It is a monumental setback. We are disappointed with Uttar Pradesh,” Congress spokesman Sanjay Jha said. Added Congress leader Sandeep Dikshit: “Our party is looking confused.” BJP leader Yogi Adityanath told IANS: “Good work done by the Modi government and (BJP President) Amit Shah’s stragegy has paid dividends.”
Election officials and BJP leaders said that if this trend continued in Uttar Pradesh, the party could return to power in the country’s most populous state with more than 260 seats. BJP candidates were on the road to victory in most major cities including Allahabad, Lucknow and Kanpur. Even in Amethi, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi’s Lok Sabha constituency, the BJP’s Garima Singh had forged ahead.
The Congress had reasons to smile in Punjab, where, defying most exit polls which had projected a neck-and-neck outcome, it was set to return to power. Its candidates led in 64 of the 117 seats. A party needs 59 seats to gain a simple majority in Punjab. The ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP combine led in 28 seats, relegating the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which had been confident of taking power in the border state, to the third spot (25 seats).
While Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal led from Lambi over Amarinder Singh (Congress) and Jarnail Singh (AAP), his son and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal trailed to AAP’s Bhagwant Mann in Jalalabad. Counting of votes was also on for the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat, vacated by Amarinder Singh in November. The BJP was scripting a success story in Congress-ruled Uttarakhand too. BJP candidates led in a whopping 51 of the 64 seats where counting trends were available, pushing the Congress to a poor second spot (12 seats).
Incumbent Chief Minister Harish Rawat was trailing, officials said. In Manipur, the ruling Congress led in 16 of the 28 constituencies, followed by the BJP in 11. In Goa, the Congress and the BJP were locked neck and neck. Out of the 21 seats where trends were available, the Congress and BJP candidates led in nine and eight seats respectively. Smaller parties led in four places. The assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur, Goa and Punjab were the largest democratic exercise since the 2014 Lok Sabha polls — and the BJP was determined to prove a point.