Bhopal, Dec 8: The ruling BJP romped home in Madhya Pradesh Sunday, winning the mandate to be in power for the third consecutive five-year term by trouncing the Congress.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 145 seats and was leading on 19 seats, zooming past the half-way mark in the 230-member assembly and ensuring a third term as chief minister for the soft spoken Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
The Congress was a distant second, bagging only 53 seats and leading on 6. The Bahujan Samaj Party won three seats and was leading on one, while independents emerged victorious in three places.
Chouhan, who could barely contain his joy, described the BJP’s victory in Madhya Pradesh as a triumph of its ideology.
BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi was quick to hail Chouhan.
“Called Shivraj ji to congratulate him for BJP’s wonderful performance in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly Elections!,” tweeted Modi after the BJP headed to a thumping victory.
BJP workers celebrated across the sprawling state that has a population of 72 million. They burst fire crackers, beat drums, distributed sweets and waved the party flag.
It was, however, not all good news for the party. The BJP had fielded 30 of its ministers, seven of whom lost.
In the last assembly, the BJP had 143 members and the Congress 71. The voting percentage this time was 70 percent of the total electorate of 46,457,724.
Chouhan, 53, first became the chief minister in 2005. Before that, the BJP’s Uma Bharti became the chief minister in 2003 and after she quit, Babulal Gaur became the chief minister for a short while.
Madhya Pradesh has achieved high GDP growth in the past few years, shedding the tag of a BIMARU state. BIMARU (or sickly) was an acronym for Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, coined for these four north Indian states lagging behind in economic development.
Madhya Pradesh has also seen impressive growth in agriculture under Chouhan’s stewardship. His welfare schemes for the girl child have been emulated by some other states.
Chouhan has sought to build an image of a moderate, tolerant leader. He sported a traditional skull cap while greeting Muslims after Eid-ul-Fitr prayers in Bhopal earlier this year, unlike Narendra Modi whose refusal at an event in Gujarat triggered a controversy and national headlines.
The vote count started across 51 districts at 8 a.m. Postal ballots were counted first and half an hour later, the counting of ballots cast through the electronic voting machines (EVMs) began and continued through the day. As many as 2,583 candidates battled it out in the election for which polling took place Nov 25.