- After a close fight with BJP, Congress crawled towards a clear lead
- "Heading for a full majority," said Congress leader Kamal Nath
- Jyotiraditya Scindia is said to be Mr Nath's rival for the top job
After a close fight that swung wildly between the two main parties, the Congress crawled towards a clear lead in Madhya Pradesh, denying the BJP's Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan a record fourth term.
"Let the results come in. We are very confident. We are heading for a full majority, no doubt about it," said Congress leader Kamal Nath, who was in charge of the party's campaign in the state.
He told NDTV: "We have won lock, stock and barrel."
His younger colleague Jyotiraditya Scindia -- said to be his rival for the top job in the state -- was more circumspect. "Wait for the final results. We will form the government," he said, taking the mic.
But Kamal Nath, a master strategist, is taking no chances and has opened talks with Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Samajwadi Party, Gondwana Gantantra Party and independents. The party needs 115 to form the government.
Assembly Elections 2018 Live Results : Madhya Pradesh
Mayawati, who had snubbed the Congress before the polls and refused to tie-up in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, is believed to have called her winning party lawmakers for a meeting in Delhi.
Jammu and Kashmir politician Omar Abdullah summed up the situation with his tweet. "'Others' in Madhya Pradesh will be a happy lot at the moment," he posted, referring to the possible scramble for numbers and the support of smaller parties and independents.
The role of Governor Anandiben Patel, former Gujarat chief minister, is likely to be key.
"We knew it was going to be close because of some announcements that the Congress made in the last week of the election. Those seem to have gained traction," said senior BJP leader Yashodhara Raje Scindia.
Though Shivraj Singh Chouhan put up a tough fight and also won in his constituency, a dozen of his ministers were trailing, said election officials.
In 2013 elections, the BJP had won 165 of the 230 seats, followed by the Congress at 58 and Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) at 4.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi both campaigned in the state, exchanging acrimonious attacks.
A victory in the state sets the Congress up for a leadership battle between its top 3 in the state -- Kamal Nath, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Digvijaya Singh.
So far, the party has been silent on the subject. As the results came in, Mr Scindia drove to Kamal Nath's house and the leaders arrived together at the party office in Bhopal.