The Bharatiya Janata Party swept Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh on Sunday inflicting a resounding defeat on the Congress to tighten its stranglehold in the Hindi heartland, in a big boost for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and setting the tone for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
In some consolation for the Congress in the face of the saffron wave after it lost Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, the party ousted the Bharat Rashtra Samiti (BRS) in Telangana to make it 3-1 for the BJP in the latest round of assembly elections billed as a semi-final before next year's poll showdown. Counting of votes in Mizoram will be taken up on Monday.
As the BJP leadership savoured the triple victory just months after losing its lone southern citadel Karnataka to the Congress, Prime Minister Modi said some people are already saying that the party's hat-trick in the states is a guarantee of hat-trick in the Lok Sabha polls.
"The results show popular support for our battle against corruption," Modi told a crowd of cheering supporters at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi, adding that they have served a lesson to the Congress and the opposition's Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) that merely collecting some dynasts on a dais may make for a good photograph but cannot win people's confidence.
Voters have delivered a warning to these parties involved in corruption to mend their ways or people will finish them off, he said.
'We bow to the Janta Janardan. The results in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan indicate that the people of India are firmly with politics of good governance and development, which the @BJP4India stands,' Modi earlier said in a post on X, after a ringing endorsement of the BJP's strategy centred on the prime minister's appeal and governance plank.
Ruling Madhya Pradesh for 18 years, a well entrenched BJP managed to stave off anti-incumbency in a shot in the arm for four-time chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan and dashing the hopes of a resurgent Congress helmed by veteran and former CM Kamal Nath.
Winning 163 seats, the BJP got two-thirds majority in a House of 230. Congress bagged 66 seats.
Suspense also mounted as to who will be the BJP's chief minister in any of the three Hindi heartland states.
Clouds of gulal, shouts of Jai Shri Ram, joyful jigs and crackers were the sights and sounds of celebration in BJP offices with party workers and leaders unanimous in attributing the win to Modi's 'guarantees'.
"The election results show people accept Prime Minister Narendra Modi's guarantee of delivering on guarantees," BJP leader and Union minister Pralhad Joshi said.
Modi turned on the heat on the Congress over its poll guarantees by projecting himself as a leader who has delivered on the promises made by him to help the common man meet his aspirations.
"Modi Yaani Har Guarantee Poori Hone Ki Guarantee (Modi means the guarantee to fulfill every guarantee)," he had said in an article last week.
Free food grain, income assistance for farmers, housing for all, 100 per cent electrification of villages, and tap water to every home, were listed by the BJP as some of Modi's guarantees in Chhattisgarh.
After the Congress' loss in three key states, rumblings have surfaced in the opposition bloc INDIA ahead of their meeting on December 6, with many leaders claiming that the grand old party ignored others, but was unable to win elections on its own.
The loss for the Congress, which made a loud pitch for caste census and adopted a soft Hindutva approach, also appeared to weaken its position in the INDIA bloc where party equations could change, as other opposition parties may no longer consider it as the fulcrum of the opposition alliance.
"The poll results show the defeat of the Congress and the victory of the BJP. The Congress ignored other INDIA parties, but was unable to win on its own," said Janata Dal-United leader K C Tyagi.
With BJP dislodging the Congress hit by factionalism in Rajasthan, the desert state stuck to a nearly 30-year-old 'rivaj' (tradition) of not voting an incumbent party back to power.
The BJP got a majority bagging 115 seats after voting was held for 199 constituencies. The Congress notched 69 seats.
The Chhattisgarh outcome was a surprise for many Congress leaders who were hoping for another stint in power in the state by fending off the BJP challenge.
The day began with both parties neck and neck but, as counting continued, the BJP consolidated its lead and won 54 seats. The Congress won 35 seats in the 90-member House.
The K Chandrashekhar Rao-led BRS hoped for a hat-trick in Telangana but was dethroned by the Congress. Anumula Revanth Reddy, a Lok Sabha MP who led the Congress' charge, could be the second chief minister of the state.
The Congress won 64 seats in the 119-member House. The BRS bagged 39 seats.
The BJP put up a good showing and increased its tally in the southern state with the victory of its candidate K Venkata Ramana Reddy in Kamareddy against both the outgoing chief minister KCR and Revanth Reddy, who is the TPCC chief, being the highlight.
KCR and Revanth Reddy, however, won from Gajwel and Kodangal constituencies respectively.
BJP won 8 seats, up from one seat, and doubled its vote share from the 2018 polls to nearly 14 per cent.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah said the assembly results have proved that the days of appeasement and caste politics are over and that 'new India' votes on politics of performance.
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said the party will overcome temporary setbacks and prepare fully for the Lok Sabha polls along with its partners in the INDIA alliance.
Congress' performance in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan assembly polls disappointing, he said.
Basking in his hour of glory, Chief Minister Chouhan said the state government implemented schemes like the Ladli Lakshmi and Ladli Behna and a lot of work was done for the welfare of farmers, poor people and youth.
"Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji is in the hearts of the people of Madhya Pradesh. The state is also in the heart of Modi ji."
Taking a swipe at Gehlot, born into a family of magicians, Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat said the magic has ended and people in Rajasthan have voted for the honour of women and for the welfare of the poor.
The BJP amplified its pitch around the prime minister during the assembly polls as its manifestoes featured his guarantees, with Modi crisscrossing the poll-bound states, except for Mizoram, to seek popular support to deliver on his welfare and development promises.
Modi addressed 14 rallies each in Rajasthan and MP and five in Chhattisgarh after the polls were announced. He held two massive roadshows in Rajasthan and one in MP and his entries in many of rally venues were marked by a drive through cheering supporters.
The extent of the party's win in Chhattisgarh and MP has taken even some of its leaders by surprise, as most exit polls gave the Congress an edge in the former and were mixed in their forecast for the latter.
A campaign devised by its central leadership with Home Minister Shah focussing more on MP and Chhattisgarh worked like a magic, party leaders said.
Together, the five states have 84 Lok Sabha seats -- MP with 29, Chhattisgarh 11, Rajasthan 25, Telangana 17 and Mizoram two.