Cong, BJP share election spoils

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Dec 9 2008, 07:28am hrs
The Congress party on Monday posted an impressive 3-2 victory in the assembly elections in five states, overcoming a high-pitched BJP attack on the governments track record in tackling the economic slowdown, rising prices and terrorism. Clearly, the electorate in these states, which accounts for 15% of the countrys population and 20% of its GDPvoted for basic developmental issues, not even letting the recent terror attacks on Mumbai influence its decision.

Much to the disappointment of the BJP, the Congress not only picked up Rajasthan and Mizoram, but also retained Delhi for an historic third consecutive term, overcoming the much-touted anti-incumbency factor. I am humbled. I am happy for the Congress Party. I am happy for the people of Delhi. Thank you for this gracious verdict, Dikshit told supporters who had gathered at her residence.

The BJP did, however, retain control of two major statesMadhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarhbut its punch lost much of its power after Delhi mascot Vijay Kumar Malhotra failed to pull off a victory in the Capital. A younger chief ministerial candidate, perhaps, could have helped. Arun Jaitley could have been a better candidate, BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters.

Dikshit is expected to be sworn in as Delhi chief minister for a third time, while old war horse Lalthanhawla is likely to become Mizoram chief minister. The Rajasthan chief ministership may be open with the Congress running short of a simple majority. Ashok Gehlot, of course, is the strongest contender, but his chances could be marred given that several of his detractors have been elected. The BJP is unlikely to spring any surprises in Madhya Pradesh or Chhattisgarh, giving the incumbent chief ministers their due for leading the states to victory.

The elections, seen as a semi-final ahead of the Lok Sabha polls scheduled for next year, has brought cheer to the Congress, which has been defeated in 13 states after coming to power at the Centre in 2004. Party circles on Monday ruled out the possibility of an early Lok Sabha election, but said the much-needed victory would enthuse not only the Congress rank and file in coming months, but also its UPA allies.

Although the BSP is unlikely to be a factor in government formation in any of the five states, it increased its voteshare substantially, notching up seats in all states barring Mizoram.