Jaipur: Ruling BJP and the Congress were running neck-and-neck in the keenly-fought Rajasthan Panchayati Raj polls as counting of votes to the Zila Parishads and Panchayat Samitis continued on Thursday night.
BJP and the Congress won 10 and six of the 16 Zila Parishads for which results were announced so far as the outcome for the remaining 17 Parishads was awaited.
Out of 295 Panchayat Samitis, BJP bagged 41 with Congress not far behind winning 31. The Panchayati Raj polls were held in three phases.
Of the 6,236 seats in the Samitis, BJP won 937, Congress 740, Independents 124 and BSP five seats, a spokesman of the state Election Commission said.
BJP won 174 out of 1,014 Zila Parishad wards while Congress secured 144 and Independents 3. The counting of votes began at 8 AM.
BJP won nine Zila Parishads of Chittorgarh, Baran, Jhalawar, Rajsamand, Tonk, Pratapgarh, Sirohi, Churu and Dholpur and Dungarpur, the EC said, adding Congress emerged victorious in Kota, Sawaimadhopur, Jaisalmer, Karauli, Dausa and Bundi.
It was the first major electoral test for the parties after the Lok Sabha elections eight months ago when BJP had won all 25 seats. In bypolls held in September last year, BJP had lost three out of four Assembly seats. However, in Civic Bodies polls, BJP had edge over the Opposition Congress by security 4 municipal corporations and scores of municipal bodies late last year.
Upbeat over the victory of several Congress candidates, PCC chief Sachin Pilot said the party's vote percentage has increased by at least 15 per cent which was "more than satisfactory for him".
"Initial results show that the vote percentage of Congress has increased by 15 per cent while ruling BJP's declined by 9 per cent in the Panchayat elections as compared to the vote share of 2014-Lok Sabha elections," Pilot told reporters at the PCC office here.
"This is unusual, and clearly shows that people in rural Rajasthan have given vote against the BJP's bad governance. It is a like a no-confidence vote," he said, while exuding confidence of gaining the lost ground in the coming years.
"We are very satisfied with the results declared so far. People in rural areas were unhappy with the government because of its negligence towards important issues like availability of urea for farmers and water and electricity availability. Our workers worked with full dedication and the credit goes to the party workers and leaders," he said.
"The results of Panchayat elections are eye opener for BJP," he said.
Panchayat polls were mired in controversy as Rajathan government had issued an ordinance fixing educational qualifications for candidates just days before the poll schedule was announced.
Petitions were filed challenging the ordinance promulgated on December 20, 2014 on the ground that it would take away the rights of the people, particularly of women as in many segments a majority of them have no education.
The Supreme Court had on January 5 refused to entertain petitions challenging the ordinance, saying the High Court was the forum for addressing these issues.
The High Court too refused to interfere with the ordinance saying the poll process is already on.