Turning all predictions on their heads, the Congress party swept Rajasthan, winning 20 out of 25 seats in the elections — from four the last time.
The stunning results cemented a political turnaround for the Congress party in the state of 36 million voters and was one of the surprises of the election, helping push the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance towards the majority mark.
It came months after Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot led the Congress to power and dislodged the Bharatiya Janata Party government in the sprawling state that spans some 3,42,200-square-kilometres — roughly the size of Germany.
The results reaffirmed the political resurrection of Gehlot, who took much of the flak in 2003 when the BJP stormed to power and the Congress suffered one of the party’s worst election defeats ever.
The Congress seemed to gain from the baggage of former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje’s controversial five-year tenure, during which she faced allegations of an iron-fisted, personalised style and poor governance in the state of 56 million people.
Of them, some 43 million live in the villages, and Raje — descendant of a royal family — and the BJP were seen as having lost touch with them.
Some consolation for Raje, though: Her son Dushyant Singh won from the Jhalawar constituency in a battle that had become full of personal stakes for her.
But her party’s Manvendra Singh, son of veteran BJP leader Jaswant Singh, lost from the sprawling Barmer constituency.
“We accept the defeat and in-depth analysis will be done to ascertain the reason behind it,” said Omprakash Mathur, the state BJP president.
One result was unclear: Due to mechanical defect in the voting machines, counting was suspended in the Sawaimadhopur-Tonk constituency, where union minister Namo Naryan Meena of the Congress party is pitted against Gujjar community leader and BJP candidate Col. (Retd) Kirori Singh Bainsla.
Gehlot said the policies of the central and state governments, and the aggressive election campaign by top party leaders, helped the party win.
Rahul Gandhi spent two days in Rajasthan and addressed several election rallies that drew crowds larger than the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Lal Krishna Advani.
In a state of complex caste equations, the Congress seemed to have performed well among diverse communities like Jats, Meenas, Gujjars and Rajputs.
All that added up to a staggering up that was summed up well in the election result in state capital of Jaipur: The BJP lost the seat to the Congress after 24 years.