The Congress, which was out of power for 15 years in mineral-rich Chhattisgarh, staged a stunning comeback on Tuesday, courtsey a key promise to waive off bank loans to millions of farmers who were reeling under steep debts.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) bit the dust in its bastion as it refused to honour its commitment to help out farmers in a state which is categorised the rice bowl of the country. And insiders admitted that the arrogance and deep-rooted corruption in the rank and file of the BJP government scripted its crushing defeat.
Former Chief Minister Ajit Jogi, who aligned with the BSP and the CPI in a bid to win a few seats to use it as a bargaining chip in the case of a hung Assembly, was left high and dry because of the landslide victory of the Congress.
The Congress is expected to win a two-third majority in the 90-member Assembly. With counting over in only one seat, officials said the BJP tally was expected to drop steeply from 49 in the outgoing house to 18 or 19 while the Congress strength would zoom from 39 to 45-50.
Analysts say that the Congress promise to write off bank loans of farmers within 10 days of coming to power and give a massive hike in minimum support price (MSP) and slash power tariff up to 50 percent were the prime reasons for the Congress win and the downfall of BJP's longest serving Chief Minister Raman Singh, who began his political career in 1983 as a councillor.
Bhupesh Baghel, the Congress prime face for Chief Ministerial candidate and incumbent Pradesh Congress Committee chief, told IANS: "It's a decisive mandate for the Congress to restore quality governance in Chhattisgarh. People wanted change as the BJP fooled every community."
He credited the win to the leadership of Congress President Rahul Gandhi.
The victory in the Congress has already set off serious competition among five key contenders for the Chief Minister's post.
Baghel clearly leads the pack but political pundits are also betting on Rahul Gandhi's blue eyed boy and party's lone Lok Sabha MP from Chhattisgarh Tamradhwaj Sahu, former union Minister Charandas Mahant and scion of erstwhile Surguja royal family T.S. Singhdeo.
Raman Singh looked down and out as the results became known. BJP leaders privately conceded defeat.
The humiliating defeat of the BJP in a state having 20 percent of India's coal and iron ore reserves is expected to unleash open infighting in the party.
A section of powerful leaders led by seasoned politician and cabinet Minister Brijmohan Agrawal were waiting the right time for years to settle scores with Raman Singh.
Party insiders say that BJP national General Secretary and Rajya Sabha MP Saroj Pandey is also known as Raman Singh's foe and she was pushing for a long time in party for a change of leadership.