Conceding defeat is never easy. And for Congress president Rahul Gandhi doubly so, especially when it means giving up the family bastion, Amethi, to Smriti Irani of rival Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in a bitterly contested election.
In a painfully brief press conference, called by the Congress party after results pointed towards a landslide victory for BJP and allies, Rahul Gandhi said "I respect the decision and congratulate Smriti Irani ji."
Irani was leading by 45,453 votes.
Gandhi has been winning on the seat since 2004. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, despite the party’s poor performance, Gandhi had defeated Irani on the seat with a margin of more than 1 lakh votes. The Congress has held the seat since 1967 except in the short-lived 6th and the 12th Lok Sabha.
Results showed that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance is set to return to power for a second term. BJP will create history by becoming the first non-Congress government to return to power with a full majority.
In the counting of votes for the 17th Lok Sabha polls, BJP was leading in 302 of the 543 seats that went to polls this general election, according to the Election Commission. Of this, the party has won 15 seats, while counting was still underway in others. Rival Congress was leading in 50 seats. The trends echo the exit polls, most of which forecast NDA securing as many as 365 seats.
In a wave stronger than ever before, the saffron party has swept the Hindi heartland and Gujarat, as was expected. But in a startling development, it also managed to secure a strong foothold in West Bengal, Odisha, Tripura, Maharashtra, and Karnataka. Only Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh appeared to be untouched by the Modi wave. In Telangana, where it was expected to fare poorly, the BJP was ahead in four seats, the same as the regional Telangana Rashtra Samiti.
In Odisha, the BJP was ahead in nine of the 21 seats, bettering its 2014 tally when it had managed just one seat in the state. The Biju Janata Dal was ahead in 11 seats in the state.
Dealing a massive blow to the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC) in West Bengal, the BJP has raked in a stunning 18 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state, up from its previous tally of just two seats. The Left was wiped out in the state, once its citadel.
In Karnataka, of the total 28 seats, BJP was leading in 25 seats, bettering its 2014 performance when it won 17 seats.
In one of the rare bright spots for Congress, the alliance of the grand old party and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam was ahead in Tamil Nadu, with the alliance leading in 36 seats of 39 seats.
Counting for votes started at 8AM. The bitterly-fought seven-phase exercise stretched over 39 days and saw the highest-ever turnout for an election at 67.1%. Nearly 900 million eligible to exercise their franchise voted in this election.
In a major shift of stance from 2014 when Modi rode to power on his ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ agenda, he has this time sought another term on the basis of strong and clean governance, rooting out corruption, providing social welfare schemes directly to the beneficiaries and muscular nationalism.