BJP to rule UP after 14-year hiatus; Cong ahead in Punjab
New Delhi : The BJP headed for a stunning victory today in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, trampling a fragmented opposition that had hoped the demonetisation exercise would have chipped away at Prime Minister Narendra Modi's popularity.
The BJP was also locked in a close contest in Goa and Manipur with the Congress, which won the consolation prize of Punjab where it was certain to form the government.
The party was now set to return to power after a 14-year gap during which regional parties such as the SP and BSP had held sway.
"The prime minister has clearly established himself as the predominant leader in India," said Aarti Jerath, a political analyst, on NDTV.
BJP president Amit Shah, who crafted and conducted the election strategy in UP, credited Modi and his policies for the victory.
"This is the victory of the corruption-free rule and pro-poor polices under the leadership" of Modi, he tweeted. "BJP has reached new heights in Uttarakhand and Uttar
Pradesh and changed the political picture of the country," Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said amid scenes of jubilation at party offices in UP.
Party members danced and distributed sweets on streets and BJP offices. Women gathered in groups to watch results on TV danced as the results came in. One party leader said Holi, which will be celebrated on Sunday and Monday, has come a day early.
Terming the BJP victory as "shocking" and "difficult to swallow," BSP leader Mayawati hinted at vote fraud in the elections that were spread over seven phases during the last two months in the five states.
She provided no evidence for her allegation, and it is unlikely to be taken seriously. Her party is expected to finish third.
After five hours of counting, the BJP was ahead in xxx races in UP. Along with its allies Apna Dal (Soneylal Patel) and Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party (SBSP), the party will likely control at least 305 seats for a comfortable two-thirds majority in the 403-member legislative assembly.
The party had however not put forward any chief ministerial candidate. BJP leaders said the decision will be taken by the BJP parliamentary board and the legislature party in the state soon. The BJP, which had just 47 seats in the outgoing Assembly, garnered 40 per cent vote share in the most riveting contest seen as a gamechanger and a virtual referendum on Modi's popularity and demonetisation.
The party also went to the elections without fielding any Muslim candidate. The nascent SP-Congress coalition was ahead in only 64 seats while Mayawati's BSP was a distant third leading only in 20 places. The SP, whose campaign was spearheaded by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav on development agenda, led in 55 seats.
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi acknowledged the party's defeat was massive. "Yes, UP is a bad loss, it hurts...I agree that, in UP, we need fundamental restructuring thinking for the Congress as a whole. These have to be hard, tough decisions about strategy," Singhvi said.
The previous best showing by BJP in UP was in 1991, at the height of Ram Janam Bhoomi movement, when it got majority on its own winning 221 seats out of 425 in an undivided state. SP leader and a state minister, Gayatri Prajapati, who is wanted in an alleged gangrape case and attempt to rape a minor, was trailing in Amethi, where Garima Singh (BJP), the first wife of Congress leader Sanjay Sinh, was leading.
Ameeta Singh (Cong), the current wife of Sanjay Sinh was also trailing. In Noida, Home Minister Rajnath Singh's son Pankaj Singh was leading by an impressive margin.
The trends also showed BJP's Sangeet Singh Som, who was booked in the Muzaffarnagar riots, was leading in Sardhana. Kailash Vijaywargia, a BJP general secretary, that the perception that the BJP was a party of the upper caste has been demolished as all sections of the society including Dalits and Muslims voted for it.
"The central government schemes have benefitted everyone. Muslim women have also benefitted from the schemes. Modi has created confidence in every section," he said. In Uttarakhand, the BJP put up a splendid show and is leading in 56 seats in the 70-member Assembly while Congress was way behind ahead in only 10 seats. Congress Chief Minister Harish Rawat lost Haridwar (Rural) seat to BJP's Yatishwaranand by over 12,000 votes.
Congress leader Shakeel Ahmad attributed the party's poor show in the politically crucial UP to "public mood" and said its performance will be "scrutinised".
He, however, stressed that Congress' gains in Punjab and likeliness of the party forming government in Goa, ruled by the BJP until before the elections, should not be ignored. In Punjab, the Congress won 16 and was leading in 60 of the 117 constituencies while the AAP, making a debut in Punjab Assembly polls, was in second position winning six seats and ahead in 16. The ruling SAD was demolished with the party winning one and leading in 13 while its coalition partner BJP led in three
Punjab Congress President Amarinder Singh, who is the party's chief ministerial face, thanked people of the state for their overwhelming support. The Congress legislature party will meet tomorrow to elect its leader, he said. In Goa where trends and results were available for 25 seats, the ruling BJP and Congress won seven seats each and were also leading in two seats each, in what could lead to a hung Assembly whose strength is 40.
The BJP suffered a big reverse when Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar lost to his Congress rival from Mandrem. Former Chief Minister Digambar Kamat (Congress) won from Margao constituency. In Manipur, the ruling Congress won 9 seats and was ahead in seven while the BJP bagged four leading in 12, according to details available for 39 out of 40 constituencies.
Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh won from Thoubal Assembly seat by a margin of 10,400 votes. Rights activist Irom Sharmila, making her poll debut, was relegated to the fourth position. PTI