The Congress, which had wrested power from Vasundhara Raje in the 2018 Assembly election, suffered a humiliating defeat in Rajasthan in the midst of the BJP’s “desert storm”. The clean sweep by the BJP and its ally Rashtriya Loktantrik Party was a repeat of 2014, when the former had won all 25 seats riding the Narendra Modi wave. Last year, the Congress had won Ajmer and Alwar Lok Sabha seats in the by-elections held after the death of incumbent BJP MPs.Focus on nationalism The BJP’s narrative during the two-phase election in the State was set by the series of public rallies addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Most of the BJP candidates carried forward the message of India’s nuclear capability, national security, war on terror, strong government and the Balakot air strike, rather than responding to local needs and issues.After the formation of its government in December 2018, the Congress had turned its attention to farmers’ welfare by announcing farm loan waiver up to ₹2 lakh and made new provisions for release of agricultural power connections and pension for small and marginal farmers. Though these steps were highlighted in the election campaign, the party apparently could not convince the electorate enough to get their votes.Union Ministers of State Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Arjun Ram Meghwal and P.P. Chaudhary recorded victory with impressive margins in Jaipur Rural, Jodhpur, Bikaner and Pali. RLP chief and Independent MLA from Khinvsar, Hanuman Beniwal, who came to the NDA fold before the election, defeated Jyoti Mirdha of Congress in Nagaur with a margin of 1.78 lakh votes.Former BJP stalwart Jaswant Singh’s son Manvendra Singh, who had switched over to Congress before the Assembly election, was trounced in Barmer. Ms. Raje’s son Dushyant Singh won for the fourth consecutive term from Jhalawar-Baran.Highest victory marginThe highest margin of victory was recorded by BJP’s Subhash Chandra Baheria at 6.10 lakh in Bhilwara. Congress’ lone Muslim candidate Rafique Mandelia was defeated by BJP’s Rahul Kaswan in Churu by 3.29 lakh votes, while Diya Kumari, scion of Jaipur’s erstwhile royal family, defeated Devkinandan of Congress by 5.48 lakh votes in Rajsamand.In his reaction to the election results, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said though the Congress would accept the people’s mandate with humility, it was a fact that Mr. Modi had fought the polls in the name of religion, caste and the Army’s valour by “tearing apart the model code of conduct”. He said the Prime Minister had not answered questions on the election promises made in 2014, while the Congress had sought votes for public welfare and development.The BJP’s supporters gathered in large numbers at the party’s State headquarters here after the initial trends indicated victory in the majority of constituencies. The party workers distributed sweats and raised slogans in favour of Mr. Modi and senior leaders. The Congress office at Sansar Chandra Road wore a deserted look.While Ms. Raje affirmed that the people of the State had voted for “visionary leadership” of Mr. Modi, BJP State president Madan Lal Saini said the booth-level BJP workers had strengthened the local networks after the party’s defeat in the Assembly election and brought the voters in large numbers to the polling stations to ensure victory for the party.