The Congress romped home victorious for a third straight term in Maharashtra, swept Arunachal Pradesh with a two-third majority but its snap poll gamble failed in Haryana falling short of six seats in a hung house.
The poll outcome in the first major test for political parties after the May Lok Sabha polls mirrored Congress's showing, though it fell short of expectations in Haryana where a resurgent Indian National Lok Dal put up a good show.
Despite a two per cent vote swing against it, the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party combine ruling Maharashtra for the past ten years beat the anti-incumbency factor and clung to power getting four more seats getting 144 in a house of 288.
The combine needed just one seat more for a simple majority. Congress won 82 while Sharad Pawar's NCP bagged 62 as against 69 and 71 respectively in the previous elections.
The fledgling Raj Thackeray-led MNS, which made its debut in the assembly polls, won a dozen seats, playing the spoilsport for the Shiv Sena-BJP combine shose vote share fell by seven per cent --exactly the same as the difference with the vote share of Congress-NCP combine (37 per cent).
The saffron combine secured 90 seats, 26 less than their 2004 tally of 116. BJP got 46 seats while Shiv Sena got 44.
In Haryana, the Congress was scrambling to get support of six MLAs to cobble up a majority in the 90-member house. Congress emerged as the single largest party winning 40 seats, six short of majority. It lost 27 seats. In contrast Om Prakash Chautala's INLD got 22 more seats to get 31. Bhajan Lal's Haryana Janhit Congress with six seats is expected to be a key player.
Its leader Kuldeep Bishnoi said the party was getting feelers for an alliance from both Chautala and Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda.
Meanwhile, the Congress-NCP victory led to jockeying for chief ministership in the Maharashtra with Union minister Vilasrao Deshmukh appearing to throw his hat in the ring. However, he and incumbent Chief Minister Ashok Chavan said it was for the party high command and the MLAs to decide. A feeble attempt by NCP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Chagan Bhujbal for rotation of Chief Minister's post was dismissed by his party chief Sharad Pawar, who said the Congress will decide who will be its chief minister.
In the other camp, the BJP accepted defeat and blamed the split in Shiv Sena for the erosion of the saffron vote bank. The Shiv Sena said it would analyse factors that led to the defeat before blaming anyone.
Chavan won from Bhokar in Nanded district, while several of his cabinet colleagues won but seven ministers lost. President Pratibha Patil's son Rajendra Singh Shekhawat won from Amravati in a see-saw battle with Congress rebel Sunil Deshmukh.
Meanwhile, the surprise results in Haryana showed that the Congress attempts to cash in on its spectacular performance in Lok Sabha elections when it won 9 of the 10 seats did not fructify. Congress tally was reduced from 67 in 2005 to 40 today.
The party advanced the elections by seven months. The opposition Indian National Lok Dal led by Om Prakash Chautala put up a good show, winning 31 seats compared to nine it had in the dissolved assembly.
While the Congress may now look for the support of independents, who have won seven seats, to obtain a majority, Chautala has demanded that the governor should invite the opposition parties first to give them an opportunity to form the government in Haryana.
"If the opposition unites, they can form a government," he said signalling the opposition parties to come on a single platform. He demanded that Hooda should resign on moral grounds and the Congress should not stake claim to form the government.
However, the CM, who had the satisfaction of winning with the largest margin of 71,200 votes from Garhi Sampla-Kiloi seat, said the Congress was all set to return to power for a second term. He said he was a candidate for the top post but 'not a claimant.'
Of the 42 seats won by the Congress in Arunachal Pradesh, Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu and two others were elected unopposed. The Trinamool Congress, which contested the elections for the first time in the state and the other United Progressive Alliance ally NCP, won five seats each.
Text: PTI Graphic: KBK