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Tue 11 Dec 2018 04:40 PM

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Indian National Congress stages comeback in state elections

Victory in the three crucial north Indian states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh will come as a major boost for Congress president Rahul Gandhi

Indian National Congress stages comeback in state elections
India's Congress party supporters celebrate outside the party headquarters in New Delhi on December 11, 2018, as vote counting in five Indian states began. (SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)

India’s grand old party, Indian National Congress, staged a remarkable comeback, winning three of the five Indian states that went into elections in November-December, setting the stage for a fierce battle in the upcoming parliamentary elections in April-May 2019.

In a nail-biting finish, Congress has touched the half-way mark in the politically crucial Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, while it has swept the Maoist-affected Chhattisgarh state.

Elections were held to 199 assembly seats of Rajasthan, 230 seats in Madhya Pradesh and 90 seats in Chhattisgarh.

The incumbent Telangana Rashtriya Samiti (TRS) was re-elected in the southern state of Telangana, winning a landslide victory in the 119-seat state assembly election, while a regional party Mizoram National Front (MNF) staged an easy win in the 40-seat north-eastern state of Mizoram.

In the run up to the final tally, Madhya Pradesh saw numbers swinging both ways in favour of Congress and BJP, while the gap is narrowing between Congress and BJP in Rajasthan several times, giving anxious moments for the respective political parties and laughter times in TV studios.

India’s Election Commission is yet to officially announce the results of the state elections.

The victory in the three crucial north Indian states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, all the three of which were ruled by BJP – Indian PM Narendra Modi’s party -  will come as a major boost for Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who is largely seen as the alternative to Modi to become India’s next prime minister, if the proposed alliance of opposition parties get majority in the forthcoming national elections.

“The victory of Congress in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh will clear the confusion over which opposition party will be leading the proposed grand alliance to fight against the incumbent BJP in the 2019 national elections,’’ Yogendra Yadav, a well-known political analyst said.

Prior to election results on Tuesday, some of the regional party leaders were talking of a grand opposition alliance in which Congress will also be a partner.

Incidentally, the morale booster election results for Congress came on a day when Rahul Gandhi completed one year as the national president of the party.

“These elections results will help Rahul Gandhi to establish himself finally as an able leader in Indian politics and a serious challenger to Modi, who so far has been widely perceived to be the unchallenged politician and the most charismatic leader in present day Indian politics,” Ashok Mohapatra, a political analyst and former senior bureaucrat, said.

The elections to the five states were seen to be the semi-final of the 2019 national elections, and also to test the electoral popularity of prime minister Narendra Modi.

Opposition leaders described the outcome of Tuesday’s election results as the "victory of democracy" in India.