New Delhi: In a photo finish, the Congress’ hopes of consolidation in Rajasthan were dealt a body blow by smaller parties and independents who together accounted for 27 out of the 199 seats where counting took place on Tuesday. Chief minister Vasundhara Raje- led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government was voted out of power.

The Congress’ inability to bring smaller community-specific parties under its fold and the handling of the rebel problem are being seen as two of the key reasons the smaller parties and independents could end up playing a role in government formation.

The biggest spoilers were the 13 independents who won, a significant increase from the 7 seats they held in the 2013 assembly elections.

The bigger worry for the Congress party is that at least 8 out of the 13 independents are rebel leaders who have nixed its chances in these seats.

“We knew in the run-up to the polls that we will face rebel problem more than the BJP and it became clear after the results. More than half the independents who won have allegiance to one or the other faction in Congress party. They have not only spoilt our chances but we also do not know how many would support us," a senior Congress leader from the state said requesting anonymity.

Apart from independents, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) had an impressive run by winning six seats, former BJP leader Hanuman Beniwal-led Rashtriya Loktantrik Party won three seats, Gujarat-based Bharatiya Tribal Party and Communist Party of India (Marxist) won two seats each and Rashtriya Lok Dal won one seat.

The Congress, which was expected by exit polls to have a clean majority in the state, did not have any pre-poll alliances. The party is now banking on support from newly elected non-BJP members of legislative assembly to bolster its prospects.

“In none of the three states including Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh did we strike pre-poll alliance. It cost us the most in Rajasthan because the electoral loss of BJP did not get directly transferred to us and was instead shared with the smaller parties and independents," another Congress leader added.

Together, the smaller parties and the independents accounted for more than one-fifth of the total vote share in a state which has on numerous occasion in the past witnessed a bipolar contest.

“The distribution of tickets in Congress went wrong. It is because of rebel candidates that the Congress tally has been lowered. If they had made an effort to either reach out to the smaller parties or the rebel candidates who have now won as independents, the result would have been better for the party," said R.D. Gurjar, former principal of the University Rajasthan College, Jaipur.

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