NATIONAL

BJP back in Rajasthan with new record

JAIPUR DEC. 4. The Congress, which took pride in good governance and the clean image of its Chief Minister, Ashok Gehlot, bowed out of power in Rajasthan today as waves of "parivartan''(change) swept the State and brought the Bharatiya Janata Party back to power after a gap of five years.

For the Congress, which had attained power in Rajasthan in 1998 with a three-fourths majority, the party is over — at least for the time being — with the BJP bagging as many as 123 seats, leaving only 54 to them, 13 to Independents and 10 to other smaller parties in the 200-member Assembly. In the previous Assembly election the BJP had won only 33 seats.

After the initial favourable opinion polls, the exit polls had painted a gloomy picture of the Congress prospects in Rajasthan but the leaders from Delhi and the Chief Minister himself had been clinging on to hope. The highest-ever 67.02 per cent polling was an indication towards change.

"I bow to the verdict of the people. I will try to find out what went wrong even when we on our part were convinced that we gave a clean and efficient government,'' Mr. Gehlot said, while trying to keep his cool. "We could retain the credibility of the Government throughout our tenure. People in each village I visited had appreciated our work,'' he noted.

Mr. Gehlot owned responsibility for the defeat of the party from a State which the Congress leadership had always projected as an ideal Government and model for others.

There was no bitterness in his voice when he said, "democracy is the most beautiful system of governance in the world. The people are the ultimate.''

"We are proud of our Governments. May be the people's expectations were very high,'' Ambika Soni, the Congress general secretary and in-charge of Rajasthan, said before leaving for Delhi. Ms. Soni, along with Gulam Nabi Azad and other Congress functionaries had come a day in advance to the State capital with the hope that the party would finally make it.

"I want the people to realise that they have not wasted their votes,'' a jubilant Vasundhara Raje Scindia, the State president of the BJP and next Chief Minister of the State, said talking to newspersons in the evening.

As the celebrations reached a feverish pitch at the Sardar Patel Marg State headquarters of the BJP, leaders and workers waited the entire day for Ms. Scindia, who was away since morning visiting the temple of Tripurari Sundari in Banswara, one of the Shakti Peeths, and meeting her voters in Jhalrapatan constituency, which had elected her with a margin of 27,375 votes.

"I feel awed by the new responsibility. I will try my best to run the Government efficiently,'' Ms. Scindia who reached the party office to a rousing welcome told media persons. "People here wanted a change,'' Ms. Scindia, who led a "parivartan yatra'' in the state said.

"We touched the hearts of the people while others tried to appeal to their mind,'' she explained. The defeat was so thorough for the Congress in some parts of the State that in the districts of Jhalawar, Tonk, Sriganganagar, Jaisalmer, Dausa and Karauli the party could win no seat, while in a traditional Congress stronghold like Nagaur, it had to be satisfied with a lone seat.

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