New Delhi: After the Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government's defeat in Rajasthan, party President Sonia Gandhi said, "I thought the chief minister had some very very good (welfare) programmes going but (now) there's a question mark."
The party had logged in its worst ever defeat in the state, sliding from 102 seats in 2008 to an abysmal 21 (till the time of going to press). Despite Congress and Sonia Gandhi's tested electoral sops of free medicines and senior citizen pensions, a resurgent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under former chief minister Vasundhara Raje had made a clean sweep with 161 seats.
BJP also managed to bag a majority in the tribal-dominated Mewar region, testifying to the dictum that "who wins Mewar, wins the state".
The defeat bodes ill for the United Progressive Alliance government in the Centre and its chairperson Sonia Gandhi, who intended to launch into the 2014 polls bolstered by populist schemes such as food security and the direct benefits transfer. Rajasthan has never returned an incumbent government to power.
The Congress, dreaming of breaking that trend, tried to bridge differences between Gehlot and former Union minister C P Joshi by appointing the latter as campaign committee chief. However, Congress leaders said, that sent out a wrong message, indicating Joshi was pitted to be the chief minister.
Raje won her home constituency of Jhalrapatan, establishing her leadership in the state even as she carried along archrival Ghulab Chand Kataria, who won his Udaipur seat.
The Mewar region comprises the Udaipur, Banswara, Dungarpur, Pratapgarh, Rajsamand and Chittorgarh districts. Congress bagged 20 seats in these and BJP six in 2008. In 2003, BJP got 22 in the 28 seats in these districts.