Gandhinagar: The BJP won Gujarat on Monday, setting a record of sorts, and is set to form the government for the sixth time in a keenly fought election. However, its tally was down to less than 100; the Congress made significant gains but fell short, primarily because of its inability to break through the ruling party’s urban bastion.
The results, in any case, are a far cry from the BJP bluster that it would bag 150 of the total 182 seats in the Gujarat Assembly. The Congress had, at one point, shot into the lead in the morning giving a fright to its ruling rival which has been governing the state for over two decades, but then gave way, leading to elation in the saffron camp.
The Congress, which had been trailing the BJP by over 35 seats, again made some gains in the afternoon narrowing the gap to just 17.In the final tally, however, the BJP bagged 99 and the Congress 80. Though the BJP has got a clear majority for the fifth consecutive time, the Congress did manage to cause a dent in its stronghold. But the gains against the last Assembly election results notwithstanding, the Congress has nevertheless suffered a setback in that its top leadership in the state has been wiped out. One of its tallest leaders, Shaktisinh Gohil, lost from Mandvi in Kutch despite shifting seat from Abdasa which he had won in a by-election after being defeated in Bhavnagar in the 2012 polls.
Another top Gujarat Congress leader, Arjun Modvadia (Porbandar), lost to his traditional rival, Babu Bokharia, by about 1855 votes for a second time in a row. Defeat also ruined the electoral prospects of Siddarth Patel, son of former chief minister Chimanbhai Patel who was the Congress candidate from Dabhoi.
Tushar Chaudhary, son of another former Congress chief minister and another former union minister, himself lost from the Mahuva (ST) seat in South Gujarat by 6433 votes to Mohanbhai Dodiya of the BJP. Tushar had changed his constituency from Vyara but it did not work.
Congress leader Babubhai Mangukiya, a lawyer for the Patidar leader Hardik Patel, also lost out in Thakkarbapanagar seat of Ahmedabad against Vallabh Kakadiya of the BJP by 29,304 seats. Unlike the Congress, the top leadership of the BJP was able to hold out. Chief minister Vijay Rupani retained his Rajkot (west) seat against the richest candidate in the fray, Indranil Rajyaguru of the Congress, winning by over 21,000 votes. Rajkot (West) has been a traditional saffron bastion, with Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala winning from this seat seven times.
The deputy chief minister Nitin Patel, who was fighting in his home turf Mehsana, too, trounced his Congress rival Jivabhai Patel by 12,784 votes. Though the margin looks impressive, considering that this is home town of Patel quota stir leader Hardik Patel, Nitin was expected to face a stiff challenge. Nitin secured 68,785 votes compared to his Congress rival who got 56,311 votes.
The third big leader and state BJP chief Jitu Vaghani too sailed home by retaining his Bhavnagar (West) seat against Congress rival Dilipsinh Gohel. Among its senior ministers, revenue and education minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama won by just 300 votes in Dholka. Former energy minister in Anandiben Patel government Saurabh Patel won from Botad constituency by 1221 votes.
However, the saffron outfit also had its share of jolts as well. Its Health minister and a chief ministerial aspirant Shankar Chaudhari, lost from Vav constituency to his Congress rival Geniben Thakor by about 6800 votes. Assembly speaker Ramanlal Vora, who moved from Idar to Dasada (SC) seat lost to his Congress rival Naushadhji Solanki by a margin of 844 votes. While Vora polled 57,818 votes, his rival got 58,488 votes. Here too NOTA played a crucial role, with 3057 electors opting for no candidates.
Another senior leader, Jaynarayan Vyas, a former minister also lost from Sidhpur to Chandanji Thakor of Congress by 17,200 votes. He had got the seat after Balwantsinh Rajput of Congress moved to BJP. Balwantsinh had defeated Vyas in 2012.Dilip Sanghani, a former minister too failed to again make it, losing to J V Kakadiya of Congress by over 15,000 votes. Prominent BJP leader Narayan Lallu Patel also lost in the Patidar stronghold of Unjha in north Gujarat to Congress candidate Ashaben Patel by about 19,000 votes as did former Home Minister Rajni Patel to Bharat Thakore by over 19,000 votes.
The situation was equally bad for turncoat politicians who had switched sides from Congress to BJP just before the Rajya Sabha elections that saw Ahmed Patel, political advisor to Mrs Sonia Gandhi scrape through by the skin of his teeth. Four of six who got BJP tickets lost in the elections. If Tejshree lost from Viramgam so did Mansinh Chauhan from Balasinor. Cooperative leader Ramsinh Parmar, chairman of Amul lost in Thasra as did Raghavji Patel in Jamnagar (rural).
With top leadership of Congress in the state decimated, Paresh Dhanani who won from his Amreli constituency will now emerge to leadership position in the Gujarat Congress. Alpesh Thakore, the OBC leader who was part of the triad of youth leaders that proved to be a thorn in the side of the BJP has won his election as Congress candidate as did Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani who contested as an independent with Congress support. Hardik Patel, being underage, did not contest the polls.
In Una where four Dalit youth had been lynched for skinning a dead cow causing a national furore, the Congress candidate Punjabhai Vansh has won while in Jamalpur-Khadia constituency where Muslims are in fair numbers, Congress has won with its candidate Imran Khedawala defeating sitting BJP candidate Bhushan Bhatt.