New Delhi: Rajasthan on Tuesday continued with its two-decade-old trend of voting out incumbent governments, and showed the door to chief minister Vasundhara Raje-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The Congress party, however, missed the halfway mark owing to smaller parties and independents playing a spoiler, despite being the single largest party.

While the BJP government was facing only one term of anti-incumbency, the anger over the incumbent precipitated over rural distress and unemployment. Buckling under the unpopular sentiments, particularly against the local leadership, the party was reduced to less than half its 2013 tally.

The next step for the Congress party is not only to reach out to smaller parties and independents to form the government, but also to deal with internal troubles—seen as one of the key reasons for it falling short of an impressive win.

“We are in touch with independents and are hopeful of winning support from Bahujan Samaj Party, Rashtriya Lok Dal and Left parties. Party president Rahul Gandhi is likely to hold a meeting on Wednesday following which a clearer picture will emerge," a senior Congress leader from the state said requesting anonymity.

“Congress will form the government. This is the mandate of the public, which is in favour of the Congress party," the party’s state unit chief Sachin Pilot said. “We will get a clear majority and will also take along other parties or candidates who quit the BJP for us."

The Congress’ performance falls short of early expectations. It was confident of a sweep. Senior party leaders said that its chances were eclipsed over poor ticket distribution fuelled by the chief ministerial ambitions of its leaders and its inability to align with caste- and community-based parties.

“If you look at this result, it is not very different from when Ashok Gehlot became chief minister in 2008. Then, too, the party did not get a clear mandate and had to rely on support from others. However, I do feel that in a state like Rajasthan it is justified to not look for pre-poll alliances because it is a direct contest with the BJP," said Sandeep Shastri, pro-vice chancellor of Jain University, and director, Centre for Research in Social Sciences and Education.

For the BJP, the worries are bigger as it had swept the state’s 25 Lok Sabha seats in 2014 and the next general elections are due in less than six months. The BJP’s vote share in the state has reduced by more than 6 percentage points since the 2013 assembly polls.

“The loss of BJP was primarily because the state government and the chief minister were perceived as unpopular. There was widespread rural distress and rebel leaders created more difficulties for us," a senior BJP leader from the state said requesting anonymity.

The scale of BJP’s defeat and the anger against its local leadership can be gauged from the fact that 13 out of 19 state ministers lost elections on Tuesday.

Later in the evening, chief minister Raje handed over her resignation to governor Kalyan Singh.

“I want to thank the people of Rajasthan who supported us. The people of BJP worked very hard in this election. I want to thank the Prime Minister, senior leadership of the party who gave us direction and support," Raje told reporters.

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