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Results today, stakes high for Cong, BJP

Seen as a semi-final for next year’s Lok Sabha polls, the stakes are high for both the Congress and the BJP, the main contenders in four of these states, reports HT Correspondent.

delhi Updated: Dec 08, 2008 01:05 IST

What kind of gift will Congress president Sonia Gandhi get on her birthday on December 9? Five years ago, her birthday celebrations were marred by the party’s defeat in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. And now on the eve of counting of votes, the big question before the Congress is whether it can dislodge the BJP in these three states, retain Delhi and form a government in Mizoram.

Seen as a semi-final for next year’s Lok Sabha polls, the stakes are high for both the Congress and the BJP, the main contenders in four of these states. For a victory would not only help the winning create the atmospherics for the general elections but also infuse confidence in it to build, consolidate and expand its alliance in keeping with the overall assessment that the coalition arrangement would be needed at the Centre even in 2009.

There is even a possibility that if the Congress wins most of these states, it may go for Lok Sabha polls in February. “But we will first have to make up our mind and then get the views of our allies who may or may not agree,” said a Congress leader pleading anonymity.

The high voter turnout in these polls — including Jammu and Kashmir where votes will be counted on December 28 — has left most leaders wondering about the outcome. “Generally, a high voting percentage goes against the ruling party… But one can’t say for sure this time,” said another leader.

The uncertainty springs from several factors, including the impact of delimitation of constituencies, inflation, the global meltdown and — in the case of Delhi and Rajasthan which polled on November 29 and December 4 — the Mumbai terror attack. The presence of party rebels, the BSP, the Samajwadi Party and other smaller formations are also expected to tilt the balance even if they may not win very many seats of their own.

Much to the Congress’s discomfiture the BSP for instance had fielded candidates for all the 90 and 70 seats in Chhattisgarh and Delhi (where polling in one seat had to be be countermanded), 228 of the 230 seats in Madhya Pradesh and 199 of the 200 seats in Rajasthan.

Given this, in case of a hung assembly the main contenders would have to redouble their efforts to woo other parties, including independents and smaller outfits that win. The Congress, for instance, hopes to have a tie up with the United Democratic Alliance in Mizoram to form a government there.

Both the BJP and the Congress claim confidence of emerging victors. But the picture is fairly complicated with a surfeit of independents and smaller parties in the fray. There are 875 contestants (including 357 independents) and 68 parties for Delhi; 1,066 contestants (387 independents) and 41 parties for Chhattisgarh; 3179 candidates (1,397 independents) and 54 parties in Madhya Pradesh and 2,194 candidates (1,023 independents) and 45 parties in Rajasthan. But both the BJP and the Congress claim confidence of emerging victorious.