It was truly a black Sunday for the Congress. Its defeat in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh was more or less a foregone conclusion but the margins have been staggering. The BJP notched up 162 seats in Rajasthan to the Congress' 21. In Madhya Pradesh, the BJP's tally has been 165, the Congress trailing with 58. In Chhattisgarh, not even the cruel decimation of the Congress leadership in a Naxal attack seems to have generated the momentum for the party to race past the incumbent BJP government of Raman Singh. Congress vice president and star campaigner Rahul Gandhi has been quick to say that the Congress has listened to the message from the electorate both with its mind and its heart. If these results are a precursor to the general elections, then the Congress has to do a lot more than listen to messages.
In Rajasthan, the Congress pulled out all the stops, flinging sops left, right and centre, but in the end it simply did not pay off. Since it is a border state with Gujarat, there is no doubt that the 'Modi effect' played a significant role in galvanising the voters. In Madhya Pradesh, the role of Mr Modi has been only secondary to the track record of chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan whose people-connect has now become legendary. Nothing seems to have worked for the Congress, not its star campaigners, not its people-friendly programmes or its efforts to attack opposition governments. It seems out of sync with the needs of the people. No longer are people interested in past histories, they want to know what is in it for them in the here and now.
Political observers may argue that these elections are not a precursor to the big one in 2014. But such victories help in generating a buzz and a public perception that the BJP is on a winning streak. It can also now project Mr Modi as the man who can make a difference to the fortunes of the party. The Congress president was spot on when she said that "we failed to take our message to the people" - which is a significant failure. Now more than ever, the Congress will be under pressure to declare a PM candidate to take on a buoyant Mr Modi and his triumphant party.