The Bharatiya Janata Party today swept the polls in Rajasthan, to the surprise of many pollsters and, perhaps, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot himself.
The saffron party won 120 seats; the Congress was languishing behind with wins in just 56 seats (in 1998 it had 153); and others had grabbed 24 constituencies.
For the BJP, the win is truly historic for three reasons: first, it has more than trebled its strength in the 200 member assembly (it had just 33 members in the outgoing assembly); secondly, it is the first time it has got a majority in the state; and thirdly, it will now give the state its first woman chief minister, Vasundhara Raje.
The BJP was leading right from 0800 IST, when counting began, and as the day progressed the margin just got bigger and bigger.
The first clear results came in at around 1130 IST -- Suryakant Vyas of the BJP defeated Congress MLA Jugal Kabra in Jodhpur City by a margin of 329 votes. In Pindwara, reserved for the scheduled tribes, the BJP's Sama Ram trounced Ganga Ben, another Congress legislator, by more than 9,000 votes.
Ganganagar, Jaisalmer, Suratgarh... it was the same story in constituency after constituency.
For Raje, it was smiles all the way. She whipped Congress candidate Rama Pilot (MP and wife of the late Rajesh Pilot) in Jhalarapatan by 27,375 votes.
Gehlot, who won from Sardarpura by defeating the BJP's Mahendra Jhabak by 18,991 votes, threw in the towel in the afternoon and said the Congress would play the role of a meaningful opposition.
"I accept and respect the mandate of the people gracefully," he said.
Asked what factors had let to his party's defeat, he said, "We are in the process of finding our drawbacks..."
The Congress leader denied that corruption charges against his legislators and Cabinet colleagues had anything to do with the BJP win. "We tried to curb corruption at all levels. No minister or MLA has been charged with corruption."
Asked if the Congress would have done better if it had given tickets to new faces, he said, "That could have been even more disastrous."
Maybe the CM, who submitted his resignation to Governor Kailashpati Mishra in the evening, had a point. The anti-incumbency wave did not spare even deputy chief ministers Banwari Lal Bairwa and Kamla Beniwal.
|Congress Others |
As news of the defeat of the two deputy CMs came in, the BJP state headquarters at Sardar Patel Marg, Jaipur, erupted with joy. Party workers had already started coming in right from the beginning, but by afternoon the trickle turned into a flood and crackers and loud cheers could be heard from a distance.
They shouted: "Chhappa Chhappa Bhajpa [It's the BJP everywhere]!"
Victorious candidates, too, trooped in and were greeted with gulal.
All BJP legislators were summoned to Jaipur, where Raje would most likely be election leader of the party Friday. An observer was also on his way from Delhi.
The Congress headquarters was totally deserted, and understandably so. Even the chief minister's residence in the Civil Lines area wore a deserted look.
Senior leaders like Ambika Soni, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mukul Wasnik looked tired and haggard.
With Inputs from Onkar Singh in Jaipur