The Congress on Thursday thumped the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in Rajasthan, clinching all the two Lok Sabha and one state assembly seats in bypolls in the key cow belt state where the saffron party is eyeing a second straight term when assembly elections are held around December this year.
After making a remarkable turnaround in its electoral fortunes in neighbouring Gujarat late last year, the Congress put up a muscular performance in Rajasthan where its candidates wrested Alwar and Ajmer Lok Sabha and Mandalgarh assembly seats from the BJP by impressive margins.
Karan Singh Yadav of the Congress trounced his nearest BJP rival Jaswant Yadav by a whopping 1,96,496 votes in Alwar, while the main opposition party's nominee for Ajmer Raghu Sharma beat BJP's Swaroop Lamba by an impressive margin of over 84,414 votes, the state election office said.
The Congress's Vivek Dhakad won the Mandalgarh assembly seat, defeating his nearest BJP rival Shakti Singh Hada by nearly 13,000 votes.
Rebel Congress leader Gopal Malviya, who contested as an Independent, failed to alter the outcome.
The defeat for the BJP came days after the release of period film Padmaavat which saw an upheaval of sorts in the state, with the influential Rajput community up in arms against its screening, claiming it distorted historical facts and projected queen Padmini of Mewar in poor light.
Though the BJP government stood solidly behind the Shree Rajput Karni Sena, which spearheaded the protest against the the film, to stall its release, the gesture did not pay off as the party lost the Ajmer seat that has sizeable population of Rajputs.
The recent incidents of vigilantism in the name of cow protection, including the lynching of a Muslim man Pehlu Khan in Alwar over allegations of cow smuggling, appeared to have consolidated the minority community electorate behind the Congress.
The BJP had won all the 25 Lok Sabha constituencies in the state in the 2014 general elections.
The party, which wrested power from the Congress in in Rajasthan in 2013, had 161 MLAs in the House of 200.
With Thursday's win, the Congress's strength in the Lok Sabha has gone up to 48.
Buoyed by the results, a jubilant Congress president Rahul Gandhi hailed the party's Rajasthan unit for its impressive show, calling the outcome a 'rejection' of the BJP by the people.
Taking to Twitter, Gandhi said he was proud of each of the partymen in the state.
'Well done Rajasthan Congress! Proud of each and every one of you. This is a rejection of the BJP by the people of Rajasthan. #RajasthanByPolls,' Gandhi tweeted.
The bypolls were necessitated due to the deaths of Sanwarlal Jat and Mahant Chand Nath Yogi, BJP MPs from Ajmer and Alwar respectively, and Mandalgarh MLA Kirti Kumari.
In West Bengal, Trinamool Congress made a clean sweep in the by-elections to Uluberia Lok Sabha and Noapara assembly seats, while the BJP finished second increasing it vote share.
The Communist Party of India-Marxist-led Left Front was pushed to the third position while Congress candidates suffered the ignominy of losing security deposits in both the seats, including Noapara which it won in 2016.
TMC candidate Sajda Ahmed trounced Anupam Mallick of BJP by over 4.74 lakh votes in Uluberia Lok Sabha seat in Howrah district.
She has secured 7,67,219 votes as against 2,93,018 votes bagged by the BJP candidate.
Sajda is the wife of TMC MP Sultan Ahmed, whose death necessitated the bypoll.
The BJP's vote in the seat has doubled as the party secured slightly over 1.37 lakh votes in Uluberia in the 2014 Lok Sabha election.
CPI-M candidate Sabiruddin Mollah finished third securing 1,38,792 votes. In the 2014 Lok Sabha poll the party bagged over 3.69 lakh votes in the constituency.
Congress candidate Muddasor Hossain Warsi emerged fourth by securing only 23,108 votes.
In Noapara Assembly constituency in North 24 Parganas district TMC candidate Sunil Singh emerged victorius securing 1,01,729 votes, while BJP's Sandip Banerjee got 38,711 votes.
CPI-M candidate Gargi Chatterjee was at number three spot with 35,497 votes.
The bypoll in Noapara was necessitated following the death of sitting Congress MLA Madhusudan Ghose.
Congress, which had won the Noapara seat in the 2016 assembly election, finished fourth as its nominee Goutam Bose secured only 10,523 votes.
The party lost its deposit in both the seats.
A defeated candidate who fails to secure more than one sixth of the valid votes polled in the constituency has to forfeit his security deposit.
IMAGE: Rajasthan Congress chief Sachin Pilot and Congress candidate Raghu Sharma flash victory sign after the latter's victory in Ajmer bypoll on Thursday. Photograph: PTI Photo