If Sunday morning favoured the Congress, the afternoon and the evening belonged to the ruling BJP in Chhattisgarh.
After a shaky start, the BJP bettered the Congress by late afternoon, bagging at least 49 out of the 90 seats. The Congress bagged 39, one more than its 2008 tally. The BSP and an Independent bagged one seat each in central Chhattisgarh.
While the Congress won seven of the 12 seats in the partially Maoist controlled areas of south Chhattisgarh, the BJP substantially improved its tally in north and central areas, defeating at least 26 sitting Congress MLAs, according to a provisional list.
Even the defeat of top BJP ministers could not stem the tide for the Congress in north and central Chhattisgarh. Chief Minister Raman Singh called the election a “pro-incumbency poll,” while PCC president Charandas Mahant blamed “in-fighting” for the defeat.
A number of senior BJP leaders won by a huge margin. Mr. Raman Singh defeated his rival Alka Mudaliyar, wife of the Congress leader Uday Mudaliar who was killed in a Naxal attack on Congress leaders, by more than 35,000 votes. The other prominent winners are senior Ministers Brijmohan Agarwal, Rajesh Munnat and Amar Agarwal and BJP State president Ramsebak Painkra and spokesperson Ajay Chandrakar.
Yudhveer Singh Judeo, son of the legendary Congress leader, Dilip Singh Judeo, won by a comfortable margin. But, at least 26 sitting Congress MLAs have lost. They include Leader of the Opposition Rabindra Chaubey, senior leader Md Akbar, and the six-time MLA, Bodhraram Kanwar, and senior leaders Dharamjeet Singh, Amitesh Shukla and Shiv Dehariya.
In the first two hours of counting, the Congress built a formidable lead. Around midday, it was leading in 48 seats. Mr. Charandas Mahant sounded happy, as congratulatory calls poured in. “I think, we will score 50-plus comfortably, no need to take the support of any of the smaller parties,” Mr. Mahant told The Hindu.
As the Congress looked certain to win, Education Minister Brijmohan Agarwal predicted a turnaround in the next hour. “We will get 49 or 50 seats, wait and watch,” he said. Things changed soon after as the results poured in.
While the Congress won a few seats in Bastar Division of south Chhattisgarh, it started losing heavily in central and northern areas. At 2 p.m., both parties were even with 14 seats. But, from this point, the BJP took a clear lead, making up for what it lost in south Chhattisgarh. In the next hour, the party bagged Pratappur, Pathalgaon, Raigarh, Sarangarh, Katghora, Lormi, Katghora and Sakti in the northern areas, seats that were not with it earlier, building a solid lead and maintaining it to the end.
At 3 p.m., BJP office-bearers said Mr. Raman Singh would shortly visit the party office. “It is at this stage of counting you know that you are winning,” said a BJP spokesperson. Drums came out, supporters were distributing sweetmeats and crackers started bursting. At the same time, Congress president Sonia Gandhi addressed the press in Delhi and said: “We are still quite hopeful about Chhattisgarh.”
“It’s all over now”
But, at the Congress office in Raipur, hope disappeared long before Ms. Gandhi made the remarks. “It is all over now. Perhaps she [Ms. Gandhi] has not been updated by advisers,” said a spokesman.