Balbir Punj A glance at the recent Assembly poll results will invariably lead to a fallacious conclusion that the Congress is the sole winner. But truth be told, while it won, the BJP didn’t lose either. A quick glance at the recent Assembly poll results will invariably lead to a fallacious conclusion that the Congress, with three additional major States in its kitty, is the sole winner, and BJP, a clear loser. There is little doubt that the election outcome is confusing. The electorate has voted the Congress to power without rejecting the BJP. While in Chhattisgarh, the Congress’ victory is convincing and clear, so are its defeats in Telangana and Mizoram. In Madhya Pradesh (a State with the largest number of seats, 29, in the Lok Sabha, out of the five States that went to polls), the losing BJP got marginally more votes than the victorious Congress. The BJP, even after bagging 47,827 more votes than its immediate rival, had to concede defeat. The BJP had polled 1,56,42,980 votes and the Congress 1,55,95,153. Thanks to the infirmities of our electoral systems, the BJP had to contend with 109 seats and the Congress romped home with 114 seats, two short of majority. In fact, had the BJP polled 4,337 more votes than it did in seven seats in Madhya Pradesh, it could have well crossed the majority mark. The seven seats which it lost by a slender difference are Gwalior South (121), Suwasra (350), Jabalpur North (578), Rajnagar (732), Damoh (798), Biaora (826) and Rajpur (932). The Congress, on the other hand, suffered a loss of only three seats – Jarora (511), Bina (632) and Kolaras (720) – with a small margin. In contrast, in 2013, the BJP’s victory in Madhya Pradesh was decisive. The party polled 44.88 per cent votes against 36.38 per cent by the Congress. In Rajasthan (25 Lok Sabha seats) the margin between the victor and vanquished was razor thin. The Congress’ share of votes was 39.3 per cent, 0.5 per cent higher than that of the BJP’s 38.8 per cent. The Chhattisgarh results, of course, should set the BJP worrying for the party’s defeat here was convincing. Its vote share dropped from 41 per cent in 2013 to 33 per cent and that of the Congress improved, from 40.3 per cent to 43 per cent. While the Congress has won the three heartland States, it has all but bowed out of the North-East, losing its last government in Mizoram. What is the political message of this verdict? Prime Minister Modi’s detractors will see the results as a precursor to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. But unfortunately for them, each election has a different nuance and undertone. In March 1998, the BJP won 182 Lok Sabha seats and the Congress dropped to 141. By end of that year, Assembly elections were held in Delhi, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The BJP was routed. Four months later, in April 1999, the Vajpayee Government fell by one vote. Fresh parliamentary elections followed. The BJP under Vajpayee was back in power at the Centre, winning all seven seats from Delhi and performing well in the Hindi heartland. In early 2004, the BJP leadership dissolved the Lok Sabha and advanced parliamentary elections by five months because in December 2003, it swept polls in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The Vajpayee-Advani duo thought that results of these Hindi heartland States reflected the general mood in favour of the NDA and, thus, an early parliamentary election would help them easily return to power. However, the BJP lost. Fast forward to December 2013, the BJP lost the Assembly election to a newly-founded Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi, but won all seven Lok Sabha seats in the April-May 2014 parliamentary elections. The election results have a lesson for the prognosticators of the Mahagathbandhan as well. The Congress-TDP-Left coalition was supposed to give a tough fight to the ruling TRS and dethrone Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao. However, the KCR-led TRS won 88 of 119 seats. Its poll percentage was 46.9, way ahead of the Congress’ 28.4 per cent. Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP only won two seats. Incidentally, poll results were declared the day Rahul Gandhi completed one year as president of his family fiefdom. The post-poll developments – his choice of Kamal Nath for Madhya Pradesh and efforts to buy peace in Rajasthan by virtue of a patch-up arrangement between Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot – provide indications as to how the party will function under his leadership. Kamal Nath’s selection by Rahul Gandhi underlines the fact that the Congress will continue to give precedence to political expediency over ethics or high principles. Kamal Nath, one of the richest politicians in the country, has been accused of leading violent mobs against beleaguered Sikhs in 1984 during the riots that followed the assassination of Indira Gandhi.
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