Kamal Nath led the Congress campaign in Madhya Pradesh
Some former MLAs have complained they did not get even 50 votes in their village, Congress leader Kamal Nath said today, expressing surprise over the Madhya Pradesh results but stopping short of alleging electoral malpractices.
Congress MP Digvijaya Singh, also a prominent leader from Madhya Pradesh, has questioned the reliability of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and said "any machine with a chip can be hacked".
The remarks come two days after the BJP won the polls in three heartland states - Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The Congress had to find consolation in its lone victory in Telangana.
In Madhya Pradesh, the BJP won 163 seats in the 230-member assembly. The Congress had to stay content with 66. The result flew in the face of exit poll projections that predicted a close fight.
Mr Nath, who led the campaign for the Congress, said he will be holding discussions with party candidates -- both winners and losers -- to analyse the reasons behind the party's poor show.
Asked about some Congress leaders alleging EVM hacking, Mr Nath said, "It would not be right to come to a conclusion without holding discussions. I will talk to everyone first," he said.
However, he expressed surprise at the poll results, stressing that the public mood was in the Congress's favour. "Even you know what the mood was. Why are you asking me? Ask the people," he told reporters. "Some MLAs are telling me that they did not get 50 votes in their village. How is that possible?" he said.
On exit polls, he said they were conducted to "create an atmosphere". "If someone knew the result beforehand, he can get exit polls done," Mr Nath said, refusing to elaborate further and stressing that he would talk to others before making further remarks.
Earlier, Mr Nath had said he accepts the public mandate and that the Congress would fulfil its responsibility as an Opposition.
"I congratulate the BJP. I hope they would live up to the trust people have shown in them. I have always said I trust the Madhya Pradesh voter and I would still stay I trust him," he said in a post on X Sunday after counting trends showed that the Congress had fallen behind.
Mr Nath has been asked to step down as Madhya Pradesh Congress chief after the disappointing result, sources have said.
The Congress, it is learnt, was convinced that anti-incumbency against the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government would bring it to power. An example of this overconfidence was seen on the morning of counting day, when posters congratulating Mr Nath came up in Bhopal even before the poll results.
The state Congress strategy has come under fire following the poor show. The Opposition party held fewer rallies and its campaign appeared to be lackadaisical. Mr Nath's handling of Congress's allies in INDIA bloc has also come under the scanner. The veteran Congress leader's reluctance during seat-sharing talks and his remarks on Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav threw a spanner in the works, and the allies contested separately. This led to division of votes, benefiting the BJP. This was contrary to the Opposition bloc's blueprint for the 2024 general election, when they plan to fight the BJP together.
With the Congress losing the poll fights in three heartland states, allies have now said the results show only a united Opposition can defeat the formidable BJP.
Meanwhile, raking up the debate over how reliable EVMs are, Mr Singh said in a post on X that he has opposed this voting practice since 2003.
"Any Machine with a Chip can be hacked. I have opposed voting by EVM since 2003. Can we allow our Indian Democracy to be controlled by Professional Hackers! This is the Fundamental Question which all Political Parties have to address to. Hon ECI and Hon Supreme Court would you please defend our Indian Democracy?" he said in a post on X.