The assembly poll results on Sunday have delivered a ringing endorsement of the Bharatiya Janata Party's strategy centred on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's appeal and governance plank, quashing the Congress' hopes of a revival in the Hindi heartland and boosting the impression that the ruling party is favourite to retain power for a third straight term in 2024.
The BJP had taken the gambit of not projecting any chief ministerial face and built its campaign around grander narratives involving the Modi government's works despite misgivings in some quarters, as the five state polls came months after the Karnataka elections where a similar strategy came unstuck.
A big win in Karnataka had fuelled the Congress' hopes that it had finally found a counter-punch powered by local leadership and welfare guarantees to put the BJP on the defensive but Sunday's verdict makes it clear that the 'Modi magic' remains strong and can turn the tide in the states where it enjoys strong organisational presence.
If anything, the BJP amplified its pitch around the prime minister during these 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.
He addressed 14 rallies each in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and five in Chhattisgarh after the polls were announced.
He held two massive roadshows in Rajasthan and one in Madhya Pradesh 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 Madhya Pradesh 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 Amit Shah focussing more on Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh worked like a magic, party leaders said.
It tapped into anti-incumbency against Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel-led government and countered the perceived indifference in some segments of voters with Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led dispensation, with intensive ground work and having many regional satraps and MPs, including Union ministers, contest the polls.
However, Chouhan has succeeded in making a point against detractors by spearheading his campaign around his government's schemes, especially ladli bahna scheme, and making an emotional connection with voters.
He has fashioned himself as people's avuncular 'mama' and, by most accounts, the strategy worked, more so as his image of an affable and everyday man contrasted nicely for him against Congress' chief ministerial face Kamal Nath, termed by critics as someone who is arrogant and not a team man.
It will draw particular satisfaction from the Congress' decimation in the three Hindi-speaking states as the opposition party, especially its leader Rahul Gandhi, had made a big issue around the demand of caste census to reach out to Other Backward Classes voters.
The BJP also joined the Congress in amping up the welfare pitch and it will be interesting to see if the party will continue to go down the path it has taken to counter opposition parties after initially questioning such populist tactics.
With the win, the BJP is now in power in most of north and west India, two regions that have powered its back-to-back Lok Sabha majority in 2014 and 2019.
The party had swept the three Hindi-speaking states in 2019 even after losing them in the assembly polls in 2018 and, therefore, the win now indicates that its ideological and governance planks have only taken deeper roots since then.
The only jarring note for the BJP in these elections has come from Telangana, where the Congress scored a stunning win by successfully riding an anti-incumbency wave against the ruling Bharat Rashtra Samithi, relegating the saffron party to the third position.
The party has drawn heart from its highest-ever assembly vote share tally. It has won six and was leading in two seats in the 119-member assembly.
Already out of power from Karnataka, the only southern state it has ever run a government, the BJP brass will have to mull over its strategy in a region of five states where it has not been able to replicate the success seen in the rest of the country.