The BJP won the Gujarat assembly polls for a record sixth straight victory today, and was set to evict the Congress in Himachal Pradesh, tightening the party’s grip over the country’s politics with general elections only 18 months away.
The Gujarat results turned out to be a seesaw, with BJP and Congress running neck and neck in the morning. At midday, BJP pulled ahead, and by 6.30 p.m., it had won 95 seats while leading in four seats in the 182-member assembly.
The result with a likely final tally of 99 seats for BJP_ was not as grand as the saffron party had expected. Party leaders had aimed for 150-plus seats, but faced a tough challenge from a resurgent Congress led by Rahul Gandhi, as well as young Patidar and Dalit leaders Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakor and Jignesh Mewani.
The Congress won 75 seats and was leading in two for a possible total of 77, compared to 61 in the 2012 elections.
“This is double joy for me,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a former Gujarat chief minister, in a victory speech at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi.
He said he was happy that his successors continued the development work which he had spearheaded during his nearly 13- year tenure as the chief minister.
“I once again offer the hardworking party workers many congratulations. This is not an ordignary victory,” he said.
In an earlier tweet, Modi said: “I assure (people of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh) that we will leave no stone unturned in furthering the development journey of these states and serve the people tirelessly.”
Gandhi in a tweet said his party “accepts the verdict of the people and congratulates the new governments in both states.”
He thanked his party members for fighting “anger with dignity.”
The BJP called the results a vote for development pushed by Modi, who was the tireless star campaigner in both states.
The Congress took solace in the fact that it bettered its tally in Gujarat, the home turf of Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah.
Shah expressed satisfaction with the result, saying that the party’s vote share in Gujarat had gone up to 49.10 per cent from 47.85 per cent in 2012. The Congress vote share was 41.5 per cent in Gujarat, compared to 38.93 per cent in 2012.
Still, it was clear that another Congress-ruled state has slipped from its grasp into BJP control. It now rules only Karnataka and Punjab among the major states, besides Puducherry, Meghalaya and Mizoram. Karnataka elections are due next year.