The 2018 assembly election results in Hindi heartland state of Madhya Pradesh (MP) came as a major shock for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
In the state, it was a closely-fought contest. The party falls short of a majority by two seats. The result of the state is seen as a semi-final ahead of the next general elections in April-May 2019.
The major issues raked up by Congress, especially the farm loan waiver amid an agrarian crisis across the country, employment and anger among upper caste, seems to have worked in its favour and could haunt the ruling dispensation if remedial measures are not taken.
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However, the BJP is not ready to accept the defeat as a referendum on the Modi government.
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said issues in state elections are entirely different. The BJP won Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh in 2003 but lost the Lok Sabha elections next year, he pointed out.
The general elections in 2019, he added, would be fought around Modi's performance, with people voting for a tried and tested leadership instead of a non-ideological opposition coalition which is bound to collapse sooner than later.
The Congress, which had a disastrous performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and suffered successive defeats in various Assembly elections, smiled for the first time after defeating the BJP in a direct contest in the three crucial states in north India.
Party president Rahul Gandhi, who campaigned vigorously, said the Assembly elections results were a referendum on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's non-performance on issues of unemployment, agrarian distress, corruption and negating the ill-effects of demonetisation.
Total number of seats won by Congress in five states:
Out of total 678 Assembly seats in the five states in the current round of elections, the Congress has won close to 300 seats while the BJP managed to win over 200 seats. In the 2013 Assembly polls, the BJP had won 377 seats in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram while the Congress had won only 122 seats in these states.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP had won 62 out of total 83 Lok Sabha constituencies of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Mizoram. Now the three Hindi heartland states will be ruled by Congress and its impact would definitely be felt in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
What exit polls predicted?
Most exit polls failed to predict the massive mandate that the Congress got in Chhattisgarh but got their forecast of a tight finish in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh right.
In Rajasthan and Telangana, the exit polls got the winner right but failed to gauge the level of the victory margins for the Assembly elections for which the votes were counted.
They predicted a clear win for the Congress in Rajasthan, but when the results were out, the party could not achieve the magic figure on its own, getting 99 of 199 seats, just shy of the majority mark.
In Telangana, it was a landslide victory for the Telangana Rashtriya Samiti, which got 88 of the 119 constituencies, leaving the Congress trailing far behind with 19.
In the northeastern state of Mizoram, where the Congress was ousted from power, the regional Mizo National Front performed much better than the exit poll prediction, bagging 26 of 40 seats.
In Madhya Pradesh -- where the results went down to the wire with the Congress getting 114 seats, just two short of a simple majority in the 230-member assembly, and the BJP 109 -- ABP News predicted a clear defeat for the BJP (94 seats) and victory for the Congress (126).
While Republic TV-Jan Ki Baat gave 108-128 seats to the BJP and 95-115 to the Congress, India Today-Axis said the saffron party could win 102-120 seats as against 104-122 for the Congress.
The Times Now-CNX exit poll predicted a majority for the BJP in MP with 126 seats and gave the Congress a tally of 89 seats. India TV-CNX polls also predicted a win for the BJP (122 seats) in MP. It predicted 95 seats for the Congress.
(With inputs from agencies)