Bolstered by wins in Maharashtra and Haryana, Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah came in triumphant to a press meet on Sunday, driving home his party’s goal of “Congress-mukt Bharat”.
“We've taken a few more steps towards a Congress-mukt India (Congress-free India),” he said as voters showed the door to the incumbent Congress in both states.
The BJP was poised to go past majority mark of 46 in the 90-member Haryana assembly on its own, while it was evident the party would fall marginally short of the majority mark of 145 in the 288-member Maharashtra assembly.
Shah did not have worries, though. “There will be a BJP government and a BJP CM in Maharashtra… Wait until evening, everything will be clear.”
It is not likely that the BJP will face difficulties getting support in Maharashtra. Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) sprang a surprise in the afternoon, offering outside support.
Shah said, “NCP has offered unconditional support from outside. It hasn't talked of an alliance.”
On the party’s alliance with the Shiv Sena that fell apart barely days before polling, he said, “We didn't break the alliance. Over three seats, a friendship that extended over years was broken.”
He said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had become the “undisputed leader of India”.
The Congress could end up being relegated to the third position in the two states (may even come in fourth in Maharashtra).
“Congress accepts the verdicts in Maharashtra and Haryana with humility,” said party president Sonia Gandhi.
“Congress will play constructive and vigilant role in the two states. We hope parties forming government will fulfil promises.”
Live Blog Assembly Elections 2014
Her son and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi said, “We accept the verdict of people, people have voted for change. The Congress will work hard on the ground to once again earn confidence of people. I congratulate the BJP on their success.”
Amid the drubbing, the outgoing Congress chief ministers — Prithviraj Chavan (Maharashtra) and Bhupinder Singh Hooda (Haryana) — notched up wins.
Eyes on Maharashtra endgame
The fractured mandate and the NCP’s offer of outside support are being watched keenly. Senior NCP leader Praful Patel said his party would support the BJP as it was the single largest party and could, hence, provide a stable government.
The NCP's offer came even as BJP leaders appeared inclined to “go with like-minded parties" (read Shiv Sena).
Immediately after Patel's statement, the BJP's likely CM candidate in Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis, said, "A decision on this will be taken by the BJP parliamentary board."
Earlier, BJP leaders made friendly overtures to the Shiv Sena with party leader Piyush Goyal saying, "What happened during the last 20 days cannot determine the fate of a relationship which lasted 30 years."
The most emotional appeal came from senior BJP leader LK Advani. "It will be good if the old relationship between the BJP and the Shiv Sena is revived. I had said earlier too that this relationship should not have broken up."
Uddhav Thackeray's Sena, however, preferred to keep its options open, saying it will "work with any party which works in the best interests of Maharashtra."
The fractured mandate has opened different possibilities of government formation.
On the face of it, the BJP has emerged as the largest party and likely to get around 115.
The smaller parties and independents cannot make up for the deficit. The BJP will have to have the support of either the Sena or the NCP.
It would mean the BJP would have to give in to a fair amount of bargaining on key portfolios.
Amid all this fluidity, there is no stopping talk of even the Sena and the NCP coming together with outside support from the Congress.
Modi dubs results historic
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had held 11 and 27 rallies in Haryana and Maharashtra respectetively in the run-up to the assembly polls, termed the results historic after it was clear that the BJP had scored big in both states.
In a series of tweets, Modi, who was the BJP's star campaigner in both Lok Sabha elections as well as the assembly polls, congratulated the people for their support.
Historic results! A matter of immense happiness & pride for BJP. I salute our Karyakartas for their tireless efforts.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) October 19, 2014
Thanks to the people of Haryana for giving us the opportunity to fulfil their dreams & to take Haryana's development journey to new heights.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) October 19, 2014
My gratitude to the people of Maharashtra. We are committed to Maharashtra's progress & creating a Maharashtra the world will be proud of.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) October 19, 2014
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said in the evening that his party had not got any proposal from the BJP.
However, Uddhav, whose party had parted ways with the BJP over the sharing of seats ahead of polls, did not rule out the possibility of the two parties joining hands once again.
Uddhav hinted that his party would not approach the BJP. "If they decide to ally with the NCP, what could we do?" he said.
Le the BJP approach first, he reiterated, when asked about the possibility of the saffron tie-up.
"I'm at my home. If you want to have a word, please drop by."