New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is likely to retain power in Gujarat with its best-ever tally in the assembly and also romp home in Himachal Pradesh, exit polls predicted Monday evening.
In Himachal, one of the poll surveys by Aaj Tak-Axis My India has predicted higher seats, 30-40, for Congress as against BJP’s 24-34.
The ruling party may, however, suffer a setback in the national capital, losing the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
While MCD results will be out on 7 December, votes in Gujarat and Himachal will be counted the next day.
Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP is likely to get 8 seats in Gujarat while it may fail to open its account in Himachal, exit polls suggested. The NDTV’s prediction, which is based on the aggregation of nine exit polls, suggested that the BJP is likely to win 132 of the total 182 seats in Gujarat, its best ever performance since 2002 when it won 127 seats.
In Gujarat, Congress is likely to suffer further erosion with NDTV poll of exit polls predicting 36 seats, down from 77 in 2017.
The exit polls also suggested that the BJP might buck the three-decade-old trend of a government change every five years in Himachal, albeit with a reduced majority.
In Himachal, the BJP, which has been battling infighting, is likely to win 35 out of the total 68 seats while the Congress closely trails behind with 30 seats. The prediction is based on the aggregation of nine exit polls.
The MCD poll predictions of the BJP losing power after 15 years may, however, serve as a dampener for the party’s top brass. The BJP had roped in several central ministers and chief ministers for poll campaigning in Delhi. The AAP is predicted to win 154 of the total 250 wards as compared to the BJP’s 84, as per the aggregation of exit polls.
Tough decisions taken in Gujarat
Hit by the Patidar agitation, the BJP’s tally in Gujarat was down to double digits in 2017 when it could secure only 99 seats. The Congress finished second with 77. In this election, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that the BJP should target to break the 1985 record when the Congress under Madhavasinh Solanki won 149 seats.
Exit polls suggest that the BJP may end up close to the target. One of the seven exit polls — Aaj Tak-Axis My India — has predicted the highest 129-151 seats for the party. If exit polls predictions hold true on Thursday, it would indicate the return of Patidars to the BJP fold.
It would also validate the BJP’s decision to drop the entire Vijay Rupani Cabinet in September last year in what was a strategy to beat growing anti-incumbency against the BJP which has been in power in Gujarat since 1995.
Rupani was replaced with Bhupendra Patel as the CM at the helm of an entirely new team of ministers. The BJP also dropped about 30 per cent of its MLAs, denying them poll tickets to beat anti-incumbency against them.
The Morbi suspension bridge collapse that claimed 135 lives in the middle of the election campaign does not seem to have dented the BJP’s poll prospects, going by exit polls’ predictions.
Going by exit polls, AAP convenor Arvind Kejriwal may have reasons to be disappointed as he had led a spirited challenge to the BJP with a series of sops and freebies and seeking a vote for “badlaav” or change in Gujarat where the BJP has been in power since 1990 when it was part of a coalition government with a deputy CM. The BJP came to power on its own for the first time in 1995 and has retained it since then.
The last time any party won two consecutive terms in Himachal Pradesh was the Congress, which did so in 1982 and 1985, according to the Election Commission.
Another major concern for the BJP in the hill state was the unprecedented rebellion it faced. The party had to suspend a number of party leaders, unable to rein them in as around 21 rebels, including sitting and former MLAs contesting as Independents in the assembly polls. The party is also keeping a close watch on some of the possible winners to take their support in case the need be.
(Edited by Tony Rai)