New Delhi: On the eve of counting of votes in Maharashtra and Haryana, Congress leaders appear resigned to the party's fate in the Assembly polls giving more than ample hints that it was unlikely to return to power in the two states.
"We are going to finish third in both the states," a central leader said, adding matter of factly that the party has no high hopes either in Maharashtra or Haryana.
Congress is carrying the anti-incumbency of 15 years in Maharashtra and 10 years in Haryana and is expected to figure third in both the states, another leader, who declined to be identified, said.
The talk in the party is that the Lok Sabha polls had shown the BJP and its allies securing majority in 244 out of 288 Assembly segments in Maharashtra and the BJP and Haryana Janhit Congress gaining in 58 and Congress in just eight Assembly seats in Haryana.
"If the voting in the Lok Sabha polls is any indication, the Congress cannot entertain high hopes in both the states," is the refrain of Congress leaders.
In Maharashtra, which is witnessing five cornered contest, the Congress is expecting the BJP to be the single largest party followed by the Shiv Sena, a trend clearly shown in the exit polls.
In the Lok Sabha polls, the Congress had secured just two seats while its ally the NCP four in the state having 48 Parliament seats.
In Haryana, the BJP and the INLD are expected to come first and second is the assessment in the Congress. The Congress could secure just one out of 10 seats in the Lok Sabha polls.
The leader felt that Congress will, however, perform a bit better than Lok Sabha polls in both the states. "We will gain more than that in both states. Narendra Modi won't be able to repeat his Lok Sabha performance this time though BJP is much ahead in both places," the leader said.
With defeat staring the party in the face, Congress will
hold a meeting of its spokespersons to fine tune the party's response on the results.
Assembly wise vote share of parties in the Lok Sabha polls had shown that Congress was leading only in 16 assembly seats in Maharashtra and Haryana. Though NCP was leading in more assembly seats than Congress, the latter views that Sharad Pawar's party will finish behind it at the fourth position this time.
A section in Congress also believes that over-emphasis on Maharashtra in Maharashtra and Jats in Haryana did the party in as there were multiple claimants -- Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress -- for Maratha votes, the Jats were this time favourable disposed towards the INLD in Haryana.
This section believes that consolidation of non-Maratha and non-Jat votes in favour of BJP is a major reason behind its upswing in the two states. The party, however, feels that BJP may not be able to repeat its Lok Sabha performance in Vidarbha region.
In Haryana, the non-Jats including Dalits earlier used to vote mainly for Congress, a party leader said.
Party leaders feel that former Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan's controversial remarks against Congress and NCP leaders regarding corruption cases including Adarsh suggest a bid to find excuses for the near certain defeat of the party under his leadership in the state.
Chavan has since expressed regret over the matter but his detractors are not satisfied.
Senior Congress leaders in Delhi as also in Maharashtra including state campaign chief Narayan Rane have expressed displeasure over the remarks in an interview which appeared a day before the polling.
In an interview to an English daily, Chavan reportedly said, "Adarsh brought under the scanner Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushilkumar Shinde and Ashok Chavan -- the top Congress leadership in the state. If I had taken action against them, the party would have been decimated in Maharashtra.
"If I had sent them to jail, it would have hit the party organisation. The party would have split. Nobody articulated that openly then. Neither could I."