New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) proved its unassailability on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home turf of Gujarat, registering a historic win in Gujarat with its best tally yet. The party, however, lost in the hill state of Himachal Pradesh.
The BJP won 156 of the 182 seats in Gujarat, breaking the 1985 record of Madhavsinh Solanki-led Congress’ tally of 149 seats. The Congress came in a distant second — from a high of 77 seats in 2017, the party’s tally came down to 17 in 2022.
But in Himachal Pradesh, the Congress won 40 of the total 68 seats with the BJP trailing behind with 25 seats.
The Congress was all but decimated in Gujarat, falling short of even the numbers required to claim the Leader of Opposition’s post in the assembly. But its victory in Himachal — its first in any state in the last three years — comes as big solace.
The Congress last won the Chhattisgarh election in 2018.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi thanked BJP workers for the historic win. “Thank you Gujarat. I am overcome with a lot of emotions seeing the phenomenal election results. People blessed the politics of development and at the same time expressed a desire that they want this momentum to continue at a greater pace. I bow to Gujarat’s Jan Shakti,” he tweeted.
I thank the people of Himachal Pradesh for the affection and support for the BJP. We will keep working to fulfil the aspirations of the state and raise people’s issues in the times to come. @BJP4Himachal
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) December 8, 2022
As for the Himachal loss, Modi said that there was a difference of less than 1 per cent between the vote shares of the victor and the defeated, as against 5 to 6 per cent in the past elections.
While the BJP will go for the next round of elections in nine states with a chip on its shoulder, the opposition Congress also has some momentum going for it with its Himachal victory.
Nine states will see elections in 2023 — Tripura, Meghalaya, and Nagaland will likely see elections in February-March, Karnataka in May, and Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, and Mizoram in November-December.
Also Read: Gang wars to battle of ballots — in Porbandar, mafia descendants seek votes, promise development
AAP opens its account in Gujarat, gets about 13% vote share
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) opened its account in Gujarat assembly elections and secured five seats with a vote share of about 13 per cent.
In Himachal Pradesh, however, it came a cropper.
While AAP’s Gujarat performance will pave the way for Arvind Kejriwal’s party to get the tag of a national party, it has some way to go before it can emerge as BJP’s national challenger.
AAP’s performance in Gujarat and Himachal elections came a day after the party beat the BJP at the elections for the Municipal Corporation of Delhi.
Kejriwal had led his party in a spirited challenge to the BJP with a series of sops and freebies in its election manifesto as it sought vote for “badlaav”, or change, in Gujarat — a state where the BJP has largely been in power since 1990 when it was part of a coalition government with a deputy chief minister.
But AAP’s high-profile candidates, including its chief ministerial candidate Isudan Gadhvi and the party’s Gujarat state president Gopal Italia, lost from Khambalia and Katargam.
Behind the BJP’s 156, the Patidars
The BJP’s sweep back into power for a seventh term was, to a large extent, owing to the influential Patidar community’s return to its fold.
Of the 48 seats in Saurashtra — the Patidar heartland – the BJP won 39 seats, up from 19 in 2017 when the Patidar agitation brought down the party’s tally.
On the other hand, the Congress, which had gained from the Patidar angst against the BJP, came down to 4 from 28 in 2017.
It wasn’t only the Patidars that clinched the BJP win. The party secured 24 of the 27 reserved seats in the state’s tribal belt, traditionally considered a Congress bastion.
Additionally, the BJP’s seventh straight victory in Gujarat goes to show its gamble to change two CMs — Anandiben Patel in 2016 and Vijay Rupani in September last year — paid off.
Rupani and his entire cabinet were dropped in what was seen as a strategy to beat growing anti-incumbency against the BJP after being in power for over a quarter of a century.
Bhupendra Patel replaced Rupani as chief minister days after the entire Gujarat cabinet was asked to resign by the BJP top leadership.
Patel, meanwhile, continued with his winning streak in these elections, securing his seat, Ghatlodia, by a margin of 1,92,263 votes.
In addition, the BJP also dropped about 30 per cent of its MLAs in an attempt to beat anti-incumbency against them.
In Rajkot West — the constituency of former BJP chief minister Rupani — first-time candidate Darshita Shah won with a record of over one lakh votes, beating Rupani’s earlier record of 70,000 votes.
Not even the collapse of the Morbi suspension bridge on 30 October seems to have dented the BJP’s winning streak. The party won the assembly seat with a large margin of over 62,000 votes, indicating that its gamble of dropping the sitting MLA and Minister of State for Labour and Employment Brijesh Merja and fielding its former five-term MLA Kantilal Amrutiya, who had lost the seat to the Congress in 2017, paid off.
Amrutiya secured 1,14,538 votes against Congress’ Jayantilal Jerajbhai Patel, who got 52,459 votes. Patel, who was contesting his seventh election, has not managed to win the seat even once.
The BJP won 30 of the 35 seats in south Gujarat, 36 of the 40 seats in central Gujarat, 42 of the 53 seats in the north, and 45 out of a total of 54 seats in Saurashtra-Kutch.
Congress wins Himachal despite Rahul not campaigning
The Congress, meanwhile, won with 40 out of the 68 seats under its belt in Himachal Pradesh — a feat managed despite the fact that former Congress president Rahul Gandhi did not campaign there.
It was Rahul’s sister Priyanka who led the Congress’s Himachal charge, helping the party break its losing streak.
The Congress’s poll promise of giving the old pension scheme and benefits for government employees appeared to have helped the party romp home with 40 seats.
Additionally, there was a massive anti-incumbency against Chief Minister Jairam Thakur in the state. Although the BJP declared Thakur as its CM face, it sought votes in Modi’s name.
But the strategy did not work.
Additionally, rebellion by as many as 21 sitting and former BJP MLAs who were denied poll tickets also dented the party’s prospects.
Meanwhile, even though the Congress has comfortably crossed the halfway mark in Himachal Pradesh, it doesn’t seem to be leaving anything to chance — the party has already decided to take its MLAs to Chandigarh to prevent poaching by the BJP.
Although the Congress has yet to announce its CM candidate, Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee chief Pratibha Singh, former state chief Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu and leader of the opposition in the outgoing Himachal assembly Mukesh Agnihotri are among the front-runners for the top position.
(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)
Also Read: After 2017 embarrassment, Gujarat BJP banks on a Bhagwat confidant to win Modi’s home ground