NEW DELHI: Madhya Pradesh, with 230 MLAs, was the largest state whose fate was to be decided on December 11 and it gave no respite to the politicians and the voters throughout the day and well into the night. The leads and trends coming out of the EVMs to decide the winner of Madhya Pradesh Assembly Election 2018 kept everyone on the tenterhooks well into the night as the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fought a bruising battle to claim the honours.
The thrilling duel in the state ended in a nail-biting finish on Wednesday morning, 24 hours and 25 minutes after the counting started on Tuesday with the Congress just about managing to edge ahead of the ruling BJP to emerge as the single-largest party in the state with 114 seats against 109 in the latter's kitty. Smaller parties and Independents won seven seats, and hold the key to power in the state. These include Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) with two seats, Samajwadi Party one and four Independents.
With a legacy of a 15-year-long rule in the state, the government of chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan went into the battlefield against a resurgent Congress and managed to put up a tough fight.
The excitement began soon after trends started flowing in for the 230-member Madhya Pradesh Assembly a few minutes after 8 am on Tuesday. The scoreboard kept on changing every few minutes with the BJP in the pole position one moment and the Congress moving ahead the next minute. The seesaw battle had all the ingredients of an exciting cricket match with no one sure about the next ball and the stroke. As the close contest went on, many stalwarts from both the parties were forced to bite the dust.
Both parties managed to cross the half-way mark of 115 more than once but the wily Madhya Pradesh electorate had more aces up his sleeves than any political pundit would have imagined. But after all the votes were counted, the saffron party, which was eyeing a fourth term in office, ceded the lead to the Congress which came out as the victor by a slender margin in the bruising encounter.
Congress has made a comeback in the state after a gap of 15 years. Its leaders Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia spearheaded the party's campaign with a conviction to unseat Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan's government. The two leaders held several rallies as they went all out to reach out to every voter of the state.
Rahul Gandhi, the Congress president, made several visits to the state to make sure the party gets the all-important state ahead of the Lok Sabha elections scheduled for 2019 while Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah led the charge along with Chouhan for their party.
Eventhough the BJP lost Madhya Pradesh Assembly Election, the final numbers are still a face-saver for the party. Despite the anti-incumbency factor, the Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led party put up a good show and kept everyone on the tenterhooks in the biggest political cliffhanger of the last few years.
Under his leadership, the BJP managed to emerge with a greater vote share than the Congress. The BJP had 41% (1,56,42,980) vote share compared to 40.9% (1,55,95,153) for the Congress.