The Congress did expect an edge over its rivals but it wasn't sure of the windfall that Maharashtra's voters have ensured for it to become the single largest legislative party with 82 of total 288 Assembly seats. With its ally Nationalist Congress Party finishing second (62 seats), the Congress Chief Minister, most probably incumbent Ashok Chavan, will enjoy a simple majority in the house and lead comfortably a stable government for next five years.
Armed with the best-ever show since 1995, the Congress was overwhelmed because the results meant that they would not need the support of independents or rebels. The icing on the Congress' cake was that the NCP, the second largest party, didn't surpass the ally as it had done in 2004.
The Shiv Sena (44) staged its worst performance in last 20 years because of the dent made by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (13). The fourth finish has put a question mark on the Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray's political future even as his estranged cousin and MNS chief Raj Thackeray went on a rampage.
Despite losing seven seats, the Sena partner Bharatiya Janata Party (47) managed more than its ally after a long time. The BJP will have to give aggressive Opposition leader who would keep the DF under check all the time.
The Third Front (10) didn't live up to its own expectations. 28 independents and rebels many of which are from the NCP and Congress will support the Congress-NCP rather than sitting in Opposition.
"It's a victory of Sonia Gandhi's leadership and the Congress' pro-people policy," Chief Minister Ashok Chavan told a press conference on Thursday evening. "It's a verdict given to the developmental works. People want a stable government."
Though the verdict established that anti-incumbency didn't work against he government as a whole but it did beat nine sitting ministers including an ex-Deputy Chief Minister.
In crediting Gandhi for all the success, the Congress seemed to have forgot the most important factor that dug it a gold mine_ the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena's adverse impact on the Shiv Sena's prospects. The MNS not only ensured its own victories, but it also cleared the way for the Congress-NCP in crucial segments where the ruling front was locked in a three-way battle.
"We don't know who benefited from whom. Let me study the results first," said Chavan.
MNS president Raj Thackeray said what mattered to him was his winners and not the amount of damage MNS had inflicted on any other party (the Sena). "Ours is just a three-year-old party and to have won the 13 MLAs in such a short period is not a small achievement."
BJP general secretary Gopinath Munde said the alliance needed some introspection. "We will study what went wrong." The Sena leaders were not reachable.