Ahmedabad: The BJP will rule Gujarat for the sixth successive time as the party today secured a simple majority in the high-stakes state elections by winning 99 seats in the 182-member Assembly.
However, the tally of the saffron party dipped from 115 in 2012 as the Congress made significant gains by bagging 77 seats against its previous score of 61. According to the Election Commission tally, the BJP won 99 seats, the Congress bagged 77 and the others accounted for the remaining six.
The BJP, which has been in power in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state uninterrupted since 1998, overcame the anti-incumbency to retain power in the bitterly-contested two-phase Assembly elections. The high-pitch campaign was marked by shrill noises and allegations and counter allegations by the leaders of the two main contenders to power.
To form a government in the state, a party or coalition needed at least 92 seats. The elections had added significance since these were held for the first time since Modi, a three-time CM, moved to the Centre as the prime minister in May 2014. However, despite his shift to New Delhi, Modi was virtually the face of the BJP campaign and held 38 rallies.
On the other side, Rahul Gandhi also led the Congress’ campaign vigorously, criss-crossing Gujarat and tenaciously taking on the rival by striking a broad electoral understanding with three prominent community leaders – Hardik Patel (Patidar), Alpesh Thakor (OBC) and Jignesh Mevani (Dalit). The Bhartiya Tribal Party of Chottu Vasava won two seats, while the NCP emerged victorious on one seat. Three seats went to independent candidates. There were 16 seats where the margin of victory was less than 2,000 votes. Five ministers, two of them of Cabinet rank — Chimanbhai Saparia and Atmaram Parmar – lost elections. Significantly, the ruling BJP lost Unjha seat of Mehsana district, a constituency which includes Modi’s hometown Vadnagar. A clutch of senior Congress leaders, including Shaktisinh Gohil, Arjun Modhvadia, Siddarth Patel and Tushar Chaudhary, also lost. The BJP got 49.1 per cent of total votes polled, a slight increase from 48 per cent it had in 2012. The Congress had last time got 39 per cent vote share, which increased to 41.4 per cent in 2017.
The BJP put up a stellar performance in urban centres, while the Congress got upper hand in rural areas. Chief Minister Vijay Rupani retained the Rajkot West seat by defeating Congress’ Indranil Rajyaguru by over 53,000 votes. Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel defeated Congress candidate Jivabhai Patel in Mehsana.
BJP minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama won from Dholka in Ahmedabad district by defeating his nearest Congress rival Ashwin Rathod by 327 votes. Former Gujarat minister Saurabh Patel of the BJP trounced his nearest Congress rival Dhiraj Kalathiya by a margin of 906 votes in Botad. Among other prominent winners were BJP leader and Fisheries Minister Babubhai Bokhiriya, who defeated senior Congress leader Arjun Modhwadia in Porbandar.
BJP’s Suresh Patel retained the prestigious Maninagar seat, the former constituency of Modi, by defeating Congress candidate Shweta Brahmbhatt by 75,199 votes. In Mahuva seat in Bhavnagar district, BJP’s Raghav Makwana defeated independent candidate Kanu Kalsaria. The BJP also won the Umbergaon seat in Valsad. The Congress won Mahudha seat in Kheda district where its nominee Indrajitsinh Parmar defeated BJP’s Bharatsinh Parmar by 13,601 votes.
Congress’ Alpesh Thakor, the face of OBC community in Gujarat, won from Radhanpur defeating Lavingji Thakor of the BJP. Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani won from Vadgam while contesting as an independent with the Congress’ support. He defeated BJP’s Vijay Chakravarti by over 19,000 votes. Congress nominee and Leader of Opposition Mohansinh Rathwa defeated his closest rival Jasubhai Rathwa of the BJP by a narrow margin of 1,093 votes in Chhota Udepur.
However, another senior Congress leader Siddharth Patel lost to BJP’s Shailesh Mehta in Dabhoi. Bhartiya Tribal Party (BTP) chief Chhotu Vasava won by an impressive margin of 48,948 votes over Ravjibhai Vasava of the BJP from the tribal constituency of Jhagadia. BTP is a Congress ally.
Vasava formed the party after breaking away from the Nitish Kumar-led JD(U). However, BJP heavyweight Dilip Sanghani lost to Congress candidate J V Kakadiya in Dhari, Amreli district. The elections for the 182-seat Assembly were held on December 9 and 14, after an acrimonious campaign, which wasdominated by a face-off between Modi and Gandhi.
The BJP has won every election since 1995 in the home state of Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah. However, it was out of power for a couple of years due to party infighting and rebellion by Shankersinh Vaghela, who broke away from the BJP and formed Rashtriya Janata Party government in 1996. The saffron party came back to power in 1998 and has ruled Gujarat uninterrupted since then.
(with PTI inputs)