All exit polls said Rajasthan was unlikely to break its 25-year-old habit of throwing out the incumbent government, with the Congress slated to win the state. Several exit polls predicted the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) 15-year-rule in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh could also end.
However, most exit polls indicated the Bahujan Samaj Party-Ajit Jogi alliance in Chhattisgarh might have hurt the Congress, with the BJP slated to win a fourth successive win there.
A majority of the exit polls also predicted the incumbent Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) could retain the state and the electorate could boot out the 10-year-old Congress government in Mizoram.
The counting of votes to the five Assemblies that went to the polls in November and December is on Tuesday.
While election experts consider it fallacious to extrapolate the Assembly poll results to predict the outcome of the Lok Sabha elections, the results are likely to be interpreted as a barometer of the public mood for 2019.
In 2013, the BJP had won the three north Indian states, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh comprehensively, with its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi having campaigned widely. The margins of its Assembly wins were reflected in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, with the BJP winning all 25 Lok Sabha seats in Rajasthan, 27 of 29 in Madhya Pradesh, and 10 of 11 in Chhattisgarh.
The results could also determine the political discourse, both of the government and Opposition, for the next few months as the winter session of Parliament begins on Tuesday.
The Sangh Parivar outfits are congregating for a “dharma sansad” in New Delhi on Sunday to put pressure on the Modi government to bring in legislation to pave the way for an early construction of the Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya.
Senior government strategists indicated on Friday the government would like to wait for the Supreme Court’s order on the Ayodhya dispute rather than push through an Ordinance or introduce a Bill. According to sources, BJP Rajya Sabha member Rakesh Sinha did not submit a draft of a private members’ Bill on the issue, and now the last date for submission before a session begins has expired.
However, there were signs on Friday itself that the political temperature is likely to shoot up in the weeks to come. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) carried out searches on three people linked to Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, in connection with its probe into alleged "commissions received by some suspects in defence deals" and “illegal assets stashed abroad”, officials said.
Congress Spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said the “sure shot defeat in five states has unnerved the Modi government to again use the old tools — unleash revenge and vendetta on Vadra to divert the narrative”. At a press conference, BJP chief Amit Shah also warned the Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal that his party would carry out its yatras in the state. The BJP is looking at West Bengal, Odisha and northeastern states to compensate for its likely losses in northern India.
The results can trigger a debate whether the losses in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are that of the BJP’s leaderships in these states, or if they reflected the growing anti-incumbency against the Modi government as well with reports that people are upset about agrarian distress and lack of jobs.
The results could determine the Modi government’s legislative agenda and spur it to take steps to alleviate the purported anger in rural areas. The loss in Chhattisgarh could also make the Congress reach out to smaller parties like the Mayawati-led BSP, while a win in these states would burnish Congress president Rahul Gandhi's credentials not just as a leader of his party but as a serious challenger to Modi in 2019.
The Congress has its government only in Punjab and the union territory of Puducherry. It runs a coalition government with the Janata Dal (Secular) in Karnataka. It is absent in the entire northern India, and hasn't formed a government in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh since 1989, and in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh since 2003.