New Delhi/Lucknow: In a stunning comeback in Uttar Pradesh, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Friday bagged 71 seats, surpassing its highest tally of 58 seats in the state which had catapulted the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to power in 1998. Friday’s results handed BJP the mandate in 71 constituencies of India’s most populous state.

Congress, which had 22 seats in the 2009 election, managed to hold on only to the Nehru-Gandhi family pocketborough of Rae Bareli and Amethi while the Mayawati-led BSP faced a complete rout. The Samajwadi Party won five seats while Apna Dal clinched two seats. Mulayam Singh Yadav’s party won only those seats where members of his clan contested.

In Rae Bareli, Congress President Sonia Gandhi won by a margin of 3,52,000 votes while Rahul Gandhi beat Smriti Irani of BJP by 1,07,903 votes. BJP’s ally Apna Dal also won both the seats where it was contesting, increasing the saffron party’s tally to 73. On the remaining seven seats, BJP remained runner-up, thus indicating an overwhelming number of votes that the saffron party won from Uttar Pradesh.

The party under the leadership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee had bagged 58 seats in 1998, when the NDA government was formed at the Centre. In 1998, Uttar Pradesh had 85 seats of which five have gone to Uttarakhand after division.

Led by a whirlwind campaign by its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, the party improved its all time high vote share of 36.49% taking it to over 42%. A saving grace for BSP is that it remained second in 33 seats. The party, however, lost its voter base from 27.42% in 2009 to 19.7% this election. The ruling Samajwadi Party marginally lost its vote share from 23.26% in 2009 when it had won 23 seats to 22.1% this election.

Mulayam won both Azamgarh and Mainpuri seats, daughter-in-law Dimple Yadav won from Kannauj and nephews Dharmendra Yadav and Akshay Yadav won from Badaun and Firozabad seats, respectively.

All the Congress ministers including Salman Khurshid, R.P.N. Singh, Beni Prasad Verma, Pradip Jain Aditya, P.L. Punia and sitting MPs lost from their respective seats. BJP ally Apna Dal won both Pratapgarh and Mirzapur seats, where Harivansh Singh and Anupriya Patel clinched victory.

PTI contributed to this story.

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