Madhya Pradesh results are locked in dead heat after BJP reversed early losses to swing back into even keel with front-runner Congress as vote counting progressed.
Now it's clear that Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) will have a say in who rules the state. With the Congress and the BJP locked in a cliff-hanger fight, the clutch of seats BSP is poised to win will decide the future of BJP and Congress.
As the tight race is climaxing into a photo finish, it's clear that no fringe power other than BSP is making an impact. While BSP is leading in nearly 10 seats and are likely to bag a clutch of them, the likes of Samajwadi Party, Aam Aadmi Party and the Left are not seen making inroads. So, that puts all focus on Mayawati's BSP.
If BSP decides to support the BJP it will be a double whammy for the Congress. Mayawati's decision to go it alone in the state, where her party has sizeable following in backward belts, had seriously hurt the Congress. If BSP had trucked with the Congress, the alliance would have romped home easily.
'No post-poll alliance with BJP'
For the record, Madhya Pradesh BSP president Pradeep Ahirwar had said that his party would not enter into a post-poll alliance with the BJP. But with little separating BJP and Congress on the final tally, anything is possible.
The Congress had badly wanted to have an alliance with the BSP as it knew that a three-way race would rupture the anti-incumbency front. BSP's vote share in Madhya Pradesh in the 2013 elections was nearly 7 percent. That represents a sizeable swing force. In the 2008 elections the party had won nearly 10 percent of votes in the state.
However, Mayawati said her party was looking to increase the seats won in 2013 and that the people were disenchanted with both the Congress and the BJP.
The state BSP had even said that the results would be fractured and neither BJP nor Congress would win a majority. Madhya Pradesh BSP president Pradeep Ahirwar had even claimed that his party would form the government. That always remained an overstated ambition, but it looks like BSP will call the shots as the margin between Congress and BJP is poised to remain razor thin.
"The key to next government formation will be with Behenji Mayawatiji (the BSP president) ... Our first priority is to form government in MP. We want Behanji to call the political shots in the state," Ahirwar said.
Congress had slammed BSP's decision to form an alliance with Ajit Jogi's party in Chhattisgarh. Significantly, Congress did not put as much blame on BSP as it did on BJP. The party insinuated that the BSP-Jogi alliance was BJP's plot to stop it from winning in Chhattisgarh.
Though Congress sailed home in Chhattisgarh, the BSP factor has seriously dented Congress' hopes of wresting Madhya Pradesh easily from BJP.