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A dramatic reversal of fortunes in the desert State

All smiles: Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Congress state president and Bhilwada candidate C. P. Joshi after the results at the party office in Jaipur on Saturday.

All smiles: Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Congress state president and Bhilwada candidate C. P. Joshi after the results at the party office in Jaipur on Saturday.   | Photo Credit: Photo: Rohit Jain Paras

Sunny Sebastian

Congress bags 19 out of 25 Lok Sabha seats with four going to the BJP

JAIPUR: In a dramatic reversal of fortunes in Rajasthan, the Congress, the underdogs in the 2004 general elections, grabbed as many as 19 out of the 25 Lok Sabha seats from the State on Saturday leaving exactly the same number — four seats — it had got then to its rival, the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Out of the remaining two, the Dausa (Reserved-Scheduled Tribes) seat went to Kirorilal Meena, a former BJP leader who supported the formation of the nascent Congress Government in the State, and the other, Tonk-Sawai Madhopur -- where the Congress was leading marginally -- the announcement of the result was stalled after a technical problem in an electronic voting machine.

The Congress, which missed an absolute majority in Rajasthan in the State Assembly elections held barely six months ago, swept the desert land like a hot hurricane taking with it the Lok Sabha constituencies in the Marwar, Mewar and Shekhawati regions and even those in the traditionally less Congress-friendly east Rajasthan and Hadauti.

Former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, who led a rather disoriented BJP team in the current polls, had a face-saving in her son Dushyant Singh’s re-election from the family pocket borough, Baran-Jhalawar. However her senior party colleague Jaswant Singh, who could register a win for himself in the cooler climes of Darjeeling, was not as lucky as his son Manavendra Singh could not do a repeat from Barmer.

The man at the helm of affairs in the State, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who had promised surprises in the current elections in an interview earlier to The Hindu, delivered.

“The outcome is a reflection of the robust commonsense of the people,” Mr. Gehlot said in his interaction with the media on Saturday afternoon.

“This is a positive vote for the leadership of Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh and the inspiration provided to the youth by Rahul Gandhi. This is also the reiteration of the people’s mandate for my government in the State,” said Mr. Gehlot, accompanied by PCC president C. P. Joshi.

Soon after the outcome was clear, Ms. Raje and BJP State president Omprakash Mathur reached the party office on Sardar Patel Marg where the soaring heat alone was not the debilitating factor.

This time the setback was more decisive and benumbing for Ms. Raje who had termed the Congress victory in the State Assembly polls an “incomplete mandate”.

“The result was unexpected. Coming as it is from the people, we accept it. We will look into the reasons for the reverses,” both Ms. Raje and Mr. Mathur said.

The Congress won even the near impossible ones such as Jaipur, Jaipur Rural and Rajsamand with reasonable margins, while the party stalwarts, including Prof. C. P. Joshi (Bhilwara), youth leader and sitting MP Sachin Pilot (Ajmer), National Commission for Women chairperson Girija Vyas (Chittaurgarh), former Mahila Congress president Chandresh Kumari (Jodhpur) and Congress secretary Jitendra Singh (Alwar), all romped home with convincing margins.

Union Minister Sisram Ola won the Jhunjhunu seat by a margin of 65,332 votes.

Senior Congressman Buta Singh, who fought the election this time as an Independent from Jalore, proved a spoiler for the party when the BJP’s Devji Patel managed to win from there by 49,805 votes.

The Congress candidate finished third.

After a promising start in the initial rounds of the counting, CPI (M) candidate Amra Ram was relegated to the third position in the triangular contest in Sikar.

Congress candidate Mahadeo Singh defeated the sitting MP and former Minister Subhash Maharia in Sikar by a margin of 1.49 lakh votes.

The margins of the winning Congress candidates were an indication of the public mood and the undercurrent in favour of the United Progressive Alliance and Gehlot governments. The party nominees won at as many as nine places with more than one lakh margins.

Prof. Joshi, who caught national attention during the State Assembly elections by losing by just one vote, proved his vote-catching prowess this time winning by a margin of 135,401 votes against sitting BJP MP V. P. Singh in Bhilwara.

The party’s highest margin came from the tribal seat of Banswara where Tara Chand Bhagora grossed 199,454 votes as his victory margin. The seats with more than a lakh margin include Pali, Sriganganagar, Nagaur, Udaipur, Sikar and Alwar.

All the women candidates of the Congress -- expect Sandhya Chouwdhary in Jalore -- won while BJP Mahila Morcha president Kiran Maheshwari lost to Sachin Pilot by a margin of 76,207 votes in Ajmer.

Among the women, the party candidate from Nagaur, Jyoti Mirdha, romped home with a margin of 1.55 lakh against the BJP’s Bindu Choudhary in a triangular fight.

Similarly all the royals who were in the fray, including three—Chandresh Kumari, Ijyaraj Singh (Kota) and Jitendra Singh—from the Congress and Dushyant Singh from the BJP, won.

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