Sunday outcome to impact national politics

New Delhi, Dec 7: An estimated 83 million votes polled in four states will be counted Sunday, with the results of the keenly fought elections tipped to cast a shadow on Lok Sabha polls due next year.

Exit polls Wednesday at the end of the staggered voting indicate the BJP could retain Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, which it has governed since 2003, and snatch Rajasthan from the Congress.

Fingers are mostly crossed over Delhi, with the one-year-old Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) expected to cut into the votes of both the BJP and the Congress, leading to a widely expected hung verdict.

The Congress, of course, remains hopeful that the eventual outcome will be contrary to exit poll findings but there are few takers for its optimism.

Although these were state elections, their significance is hardly being ignored across the country since the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party – which head rival national coalitions – were in direct contest.

The elections also pitted BJP’s determined and ambitious prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, who has ruled Gujarat since 2001, against an administratively inexperienced Rahul Gandhi, the Congress vice president and son of party chief Sonia Gandhi.

A BJP bloom and a Congress rout would be the worst scenario for the latter – only months before India elects a new parliament. This would be a huge boost for the BJP – and Modi, who has in just six months injected into his party a renewed energy that was glaringly missing in recent years.

The vote count in Mizoram, where too elections were held, will take place Monday.

Political pundits differ on the extent of impact the Sunday outcome will have on the 2014 general election.

One school of thought is that a BJP sweep – even in three states – will galvanize regional and smaller parties to inch towards the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), which is now a pale shadow of what it was when Atal Bihari Vajpayee governed India from 1998 to 2004.

This will be bad news for the Congress, which is desperate to bring back allies who have left it and to rope in newer groups in its United Progressive Alliance (UPA).

A BJP win in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh would also bring about newer equations within the party, strengthening the clout of its decade-old chief ministers Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Raman Singh vis-Ã