The results of the crucial assembly elections in five states, which are seen as a weather vane to next year’s Lok Sabha elections, will be declared on December 11. The states that went to polls were Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Rajasthan and Telangana.
The outcome of the elections are significant as MP, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan account for 65 Lok Sabha seats of which the BJP had won 62 in 2014 when the Narendra Modi wave swept the Hindi heartland. On the other hand, gains for the Congress in these states would not only be a shot in the arm for the grand old party in the run-up to the 2019 elections but also bolster the party’s claim that it is the natural pivot of any possible pan-Indian alliance against BJP.
Chhattisgarh registered a voter turnout of 74.17 per cent after voting was held in two phases for the 90-seat Assembly last month. With over 1,200 candidates in the poll fray, the elections this year will test the popularity of BJP Chief Minister Raman Singh, who has been ruling the state for 15 years and is contesting from Rajnandgaon constituency. Singh is facing Chhattisgarh Janata Congress’ Ajit Jogi, who has allied with the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party and is contesting from Marwahi constituency. Jogi had served as CM for three years after the state was carved out of Madhya Pradesh in 2000.
The Congress, on the other hand, has fielded former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s niece Karuna Shukla against CM Singh from Rajnandgaon seat.
If exit polls are to be believed, Chhattisgarh is headed for a photo finish.
Altogether 74.61 per cent voters exercised their franchise on November 28, a rise of around two per cent compared to the previous polls. For the 230-member Assembly, this election is mostly a two-way contest between the BJP and Congress. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who has been in office since 2005, is seeking re-election from Budhni in Sehore district. At the same time, Congress is trying to make a comeback by fielding its former state unit chief Arun Yadav from the same constituency.
Newly-elected state Congress chief Kamal Nath and campaign head Jyotiraditya Scindia are among the notable politicians who did not contest this time.
Another key player in the game is Sartaj Singh, who quit the BJP after he was denied a ticket and decided to join the Congress. Sartaj will be contesting the elections from Hoshangabad seat.
Another candidate who had ruffled BJP’s feathers by joining the Congress is Sanjay Singh Masani, brother-in-law of CM Chouhan. Masani was seeking a BJP ticket since 2013 and is now contesting the elections on a Congress ticket from Waraseoni.
In MP, three of the four polls predicted that the Congress would emerge as the single largest party. Two polls gave it a clear majority. The BJP has been in power in the state for 15 years.
The voting percentage in the election to the 40-member Mizoram Assembly was registered at 80.15 per cent last month. Here, the ruling Congress party is eyeing for a third consecutive term as the party has been in power in the state since 2008. The Congress and the main opposition, the Mizo National Front (MNF), have fielded 40 candidates each, while the BJP is contesting in 39 seats. Exit polls have predicted a hung assembly.
Rajasthan, which voted on Friday, recorded a tentative turnout of 74.05 per cent till 5 pm. The primary contest here is also between the BJP and Congress with Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and Congress state party chief Sachin Pilot as prominent candidates. Former CM and State General Secretary of AICC Ashok Gehlot is also contesting the polls from Sardarpur.
If exit polls are to be believed, the Congress is poised for a clean sweep with predictions that the party will easily cross the halfway mark of 100.
While there are 200 seats in the Assembly, polling, however, was held in 199 seats after the death of a Samajwadi Party candidate. The BJP had ousted the Congress from power in the state in 2013.
Over 67 per cent voter turnout was recorded in the state when polling for 119 seats was held on Friday. The state is witnessing a three-cornered fight between the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), BJP and the grand alliance of the Congress, TDP, Communist Party of India and the Telangana Jana Samithi. Incumbent Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) is mostly facing a challenge from TDP’s Chandrababu Naidu. BJP’s state President K. Laxman is contesting from Musheerabad in Hyderabad while Congress’ N Uttam Kumar Reddy, who may emerge as a strong contender for the post of CM, is contesting for a third consecutive term.
In Telangana, exit polls showed that the TRS is in an advantageous position despite the Congress forging a grand alliance with the TDP, CPI and the Telangana Jan Samithi.