BJP poised for a landslide victory in Gujarat, Congress surges in Himachal Pradesh

BJP Jammu and Kashmir President Ravinder Raina dances with party leaders and workers to celebrate the party's decisive lead in Gujarat Assembly elections in Jammu.

AHMEDABAD/SHIMLA, Dec 8: Heading for a two-thirds majority, the BJP was on Thursday poised to retain power in Gujarat for a record seventh straight term but was set to be dethroned by the Congress in Himachal Pradesh where the hill state could follow its long history of an incumbent government being voted out.
Riding on the charisma of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who addressed 31 election rallies in his home state and continued to hold sway over voters, the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) steamrolled the opposition that included the new entrant Aam Aadmi Party(AAP) by winning or leading in 157 of the 182 seats in Gujarat with a vote share of nearly 53 per cent.
The BJP was on course to surpass its previous best showing of 127 seats in 2002 when Modi was the chief minister. Congress holds the all-time record of 149 seats that it had won in 1985 under the leadership of Madhavsinh Solanki.
Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel credited Prime Minister Modi for the party’s “historic victory”.
“The biggest credit for this victory goes to public’s trust in the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his popularity and credibility. Congratulations to him and thanks to the public,” Singh said.
The state BJP president C R Paatil said Bhupendra Patel, the party’s 60-year-old soft-spoken face in Gujarat, would continue as the chief minister and his swearing-in ceremony would be held on December 12. Patel won the Ghatlodia seat in Ahmedabad by a margin of 1.92 lakh votes.
The BJP, which focused on a development agenda in the home state of Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, was set to equal Left Front’s feat of seven consecutive terms in West Bengal. The CPI(M)-led Front ruled the eastern state for 34 years from 1977 to 2011.
The BJP overcame anti-incumbency yet again after being in power for 27 years without losing an election since 1995. It had 99 seats in the outgoing house with a 49.1 per cent vote share.
After giving a tough fight to the BJP in 2017 Assembly polls in Gujarat by winning 77 seats, the Congress has hit a nadir in the western state where the party’s campaign, mostly shouldered by local leaders, has leaned on door-to-door canvassing for votes as its leader Rahul Gandhi chose to stay away to focus on the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’. Rahul had aggressively campaigned in 2017.
With a vote share of nearly 28 per cent, the Congress won or was ahead in 16 seats.
BJP also managed to improve its tally as the issues it faced in the 2017 state polls like the state-wide outburst of anger among the Patidar community and restlessness among the traders over the GST regime appear to have faded.
Hundreds of BJP workers thronged the party office in Gandhinagar as they danced and distributed sweets outside the Gujarat state party headquarters.
Though the opposition in Gujarat took on the Modi government over rising inflation, slowing growth and joblessness, the economic troubles apparently did not dent BJP’s popularity in Gujarat that has been a bastion of the party for decades and where Modi was chief minister from 2001 to 2014.
Pulverised by the BJP, the Congress and the AAP initially seemed to be locked in a battle to grab the status of the main opposition party in the state with the grand old party having an edge. With a vote share of nearly 13 per cent, the AAP was ahead in five seats. It also appeared to have played spoilsport for the Congress which mustered a vote share of about 27 per cent.
While the Congress was not expected to replicate its creditable performance of the last Assembly elections in 2017, a good showing by the AAP could have helped its supremo and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal cement his place as a key challenger to Prime Minister Modi in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. The AAP is also in power in Punjab.
The AAP had carried out a high-decibel campaign to make it a three-way fight for the first time in Gujarat where the Congress and the BJP have been traditional rivals. Emboldened by the victory in the Delhi municipal elections, the AAP had hoped its politics of welfarism will be accepted by the people in Gujarat.
A number of sitting BJP MLAs were among those leading in the initial trends.
“It is a victory of the party’s double-engine development agenda. The massive verdict reflects people’s trust in Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP. It is a victory of the agenda of development that the party has carried out in the state,” Gujarat BJP spokesperson Yamal Vyas told PTI.
According to the latest Election Commission data at 3 pm for Himachal Pradesh, the Congress was winning or leading in ahead in 39 of the 68 seats followed by the BJP, which won or was ahead in 26 seats and was hoping to buck the anti-incumbency trend witnessed in the hill state for nearly four decades. Independents were ahead in three constituencies. The AAP, which had fielded candidates in 67 seats, was trailing in all seats and had a meagre vote share of 1.1 per cent.
In Himachal Pradesh, state Congress chief Pratibha Singh, wife of former Chief Minister late Virbhadra Singh, said the party is hoping to win at least 40 to 42 seats.
“We are confident that results will be in favour of the Congress and we will form the Government,” she told reporters in Shimla.
Senior Congress leader and former union minister Anand Sharma said the Congress victory in Himachal Pradesh will have resonance and ripple effect in poll-bound states next year. (Agencies)