Chandigarh: The BJP, which is predicted by most Exit Polls to retain power in Haryana with a brute majority, seems to have reaped benefits by playing up the nationalist issues besides being helped by divisions in Congress and partition of Indian National Lok Dal (INLD).
Political observers say the contest between the BJP and the Congress this time was more or less one-sided after the former won all the 10 Lok Sabha seats just a few months back, a first in the state's electoral history, that too with handsome margins.
Secondly, for two years, the entire BJP leadership was toiling hard to strengthen its cadre at grassroots.
In contrast, the Congress has been facing deep leadership crisis after its humiliating loss of power in the state in 2014.
BJP's tally was just four (6.73 per cent voter share) and two seats in 2009 and 2005 Assembly elections, respectively.
But in the 2014 Assembly polls, it got 47 out of 90 seats.
In 2014 Assembly polls, the vote share of the BJP rose sharply by 26.47 per cent from a meager 6.73 per cent in 2005 polls.
By the Lok Sabha polls in May, it crossed the half-way mark.
This assembly election, several opinion polls predicted the ruling BJP will return to power with a brute majority by winning 75 out of 90 seats.
The BJP seems to have captured the large space vacated by the INLD, which used to be a powerful political force in the state and had formed government four times earlier, a senior Congress leader told IANS.
"Also the Congress, which has been marginalised in the state since its humiliating defeat in 2014 assembly polls, has also lost its vote bank to the BJP in the absence of any alternative," the party leader said.
He said earlier the voters defecting from INLD, mainly the Jats comprising 28 per cent of the state's population, would prefer the Congress but this time it seems they have voted for the BJP.
As per IANS-CVoter Exit Poll, the saffron party is projected to win 66-74 seats.
In terms of vote share, the BJP is predicted to get 42.4 per cent against 26 per cent of Congress and 19 per cent of the JJP.
The JJP is predicted to get seven seats, while 3-12 seats by the Congress.
As per the poll share in this year's Lok Sabha elections, the BJP, which won all the 10 seats in the state, led in 79 Assembly segments while the Congress was ahead in 10 Assembly segments and the JJP in one segment.
"There was too much confusion in these polls as to who would be the next Chief Minister if the Congress is voted to power. Would it be the newly-appointed Leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh Hooda or state Congress chief Kumari Shelja, known in political circles for her proximity to the party's top leadership," an observer said.
The scoring point for the BJP is that it was far ahead of its arch-rival as far as campaigning at the grassroots level was concerned.
While first-time Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar carried out a whirlwind tour of the state much ahead of the announcement of poll dates on September 21, the Congress at that time was busy in setting its house in order and boosting the morale of its cadre.
Also, a large number of INLD defected legislators joined the saffron party well ahead of the polls.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi held three public meetings in the state before the election announcement. So did BJP President Amit Shah, Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and party's working President J.P. Nadda.
In the 2014 Assembly polls, the BJP improved its 2009 tally of four to 47 (33.2 per cent vote share), followed by the INLD with 19 (24.11 per cent) legislators and the Congress coming third with 15 (20.58 per cent) seats against 40 in 2009 (35 per cent).
However, between the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the vote share of the Congress improved from 22.9 to 28.51 per cent.
It was mainly due to split of the INLD, whose vote share tumbled to 1.9 from 24.43 per cent.
Putting up a brave front, Congress state chief Selja told the media on Tuesday that the party is coming to power.
On being asked that who will be the next Chief Minister, she replied: "This is the prerogative to the party's high command."
Asking party workers not be disheartened by exit polls, INLD leader and Devi Lal's grandson Abhay Singh Chautala, who is in fray from Ellenabad in Sirsa district, said the party is not coming to power.
"No party will get absolute majority in the state. We are going to play a major role in the next government formation," he said.
According to him, there are five assembly seats in Sirsa district and the BJP is not going even one seat from there.
Congress leaders admit the assembly election is largely Modi versus lacklustre campaigning by the faction-ridden opposition Congress.
At a handful of Jat-dominated seats, a challenge was posed by the JJP led by Dushyant Chautala, 31, who is being seen as the real inheritor of his great grandfather Devi Lal's political legacy.
The three-week-long high pitched election campaign saw Modi devoting four days in the last phase by holding seven public meetings. So were his cabinet colleagues -- Amit Shah and Rajnath Singh, both separately addressed seven and nine rallies, respectively.
Unlike the BJP, former Congress President Rahul Gandhi addressed two election rallies, including one that Sonia Gandhi was supposed to address.
Congress' prominent Jat face Hooda did not get an opportunity to share stage with Rahul Gandhi. Also, Gandhi did not campaign in areas considered to be Hooda's strongholds.