In stunning reverses in the assembly elections, Congress was on Tuesday ousted from power by the Akali Dal-BJP combine in Punjab and by the saffron party in Uttarakhand while it emerged the single largest party in a hung verdict in Manipur and is all set to retain power in a coalition.
While the national opposition BJP viewed the poll results as the beginning of the end of the Congress at the Centre, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh dismissed suggestions that the results were a referendum on his government, saying it would have no impact on the UPA coalition.
Exploiting a severe an anti-incumbency wave topped by the price spiral, the Akali Dal-BJP alliance won a clear majority in the 117-member assembly, securing 67 of the 116 seats where polling was held (polling in Beas will be held on March 11).
Akali Dal alone won 48 seats while its ally BJP bagged 19, 14 more than last time. Five seats went to independents while parties like CPI, CPI (M), splinter Akali groups and the BSP drew a blank. 80-year-old warhorse and SAD chief Prakash Singh Badal, who won from Lambi, is also set to become the Chief Minister for a fourth term while incumbent Chief Minister Amarinder Singh submitted his resignation after his party's defeat.
Amrinder won from Patiala town. Badal convened a joint meeting of newly-elected MLAs of SAD and BJP in Chandigarh on Wednesday to formally elect as the Chief Minister.
In Uttarakhand, BJP fell short of majority in the 70-member assembly by just one seat but with support from Uttarakhand Kranti Dal, which bagged three seats, and some of the three independents, it is in a position to form the government.
In fact, UKD spokesman Shivanand Chamoli said his party was willing to back BJP to form government. Similarly in the northeastern state of Manipur, the ruling Congress got 29 seats, just two short of majority in the 60-member assembly but a number of its past and potential allies have won seats that can enable it to retain power.
Parties like the CPI, which was a member of the outgoing Ibobi Singh government but did not align with the Congress in the elections, can tie up with the Congress in the formation of the new government.
While CPI got 4 seats, NCP bagged 6, Manipur People's Party 5, RJD 3, National People's Party 3 and independents 10. While Prakash Singh Badal becoming Punjab Chief Minister was a long-settled issue, the race for the top post in Uttarakhand has begun in right earnest between former Union Minister B C Khanduri, who did not contest the poll, and former Chief Minister Bhagat Singh Koshiyari who emerged victorious from Kapkot constituency.
The BJP Parliamentary Board, which met in Delhi to discuss the choice of new Chief Minister in Uttarakhand, decided to send General Secretaries Gopinath Munde and O P Mathur to Dehradun as central observers to oversee the election of the Chief Minister by the newly-elected MLAs.
The election results in Uttarakhand saw BJP adding another state to its kitty after Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The party also rules Orissa, Karnataka and Bihar as junior partners of BJD, JD (S) and JD (U) and is set to do the same in Punjab with SAD.
Mulling over its electoral debacles in the two states, Congress virtually admitted that price rise was one of the reasons for the poll outcome.
"Price rise is a seasonal factor and the spurt in prices coincided with the campaign of the polls," party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi told reporters in Delhi adding it was possible that prices had an adverse impact.
Asked whether responsibility would be fixed for the defeat, he said the Congress was not used to fault finding and pointing fingers.