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Voting percentage 4% down, but BJP gets 10% more

Ahmedabad: The ruling BJP in Gujarat created history by winning 156 seats in the 182-member state Assembly, surpassing the record of 149 seats set by the Congress’s Madhavsinh Solanki in 1985.

This is a massive jump for the BJP, which was restricted to mere 99 votes in 2017. The Congress, which had won 77 seats riding on the Patidar quota agitation wave in the previous elections, won just 17 seats.

Aravind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) also made inroads with five seats. Buoyed by the win in the Delhi MCD polls, AAP was able to snatch votes of the BJP as well as Congress in many seats where its candidates finished in second or third position.

The AAP won in Visavadar, Dediapada, Jamjodhpur, Gariyadha and Botad seats.

Independent candidates won three seats piping both the BJP and the Congress – Bhavalsin Zala in Bayad, Mavji Desai in Dhanera and Dharmendrasinh Vaghela in Vaghodia seat.

Riding on the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his deputy Amit Shah’s poll strategies, the saffron party also matched the CPM’s feat as the longest uninterrupted stint in power in a state. The CPM-led Left Front government ruled West Bengal for 34 years in seven terms, a stint broken by the current West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee in 2011.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with BJP National President JP Nadda during the celebrations of BJP’s victory in the Gujarat Assembly elections, at party headquarters in New Delhi, Thursday, December 8, 2022. Photo: PTI

BJP got more than 52.5 per cent of the votes counted, which is nearly 10 percentage points more than in 2017. Congress had 27.3 per cent (about 13% less than in 2017) and AAP garnered a 12.9 per cent vote share.

The BJP also beat its own record of 127 seats in 2002.

“People of Gujarat have reposed their faith in Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP leadership once again. If the masses of Gujarat have elected the BJP, then we have lived up to the expectations of the people,” Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel, who also won for the second time from Ghatlodia seat in Ahmedabad with a margin of 1.92 lakh, said.

The BJP has already announced that Patel would lead the next government in the state.

Patel thanked the people of Gujarat for trusting BJP and leading them to a historic win. “This is the victory of people’s trust in the BJP,” Patel tweeted.

Union home minister Amit Shah said the people of Gujarat have rejected the politics of hollow promises, freebies and appeasement. In a series of tweets, Shah said the result is an indication that be it women, youth or farmers, all are with BJP people have voted for the development and welfare policies of BJP.

“In the last two decades, Gujarat has broken all records of development under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Today, the people of Gujarat have blessed us with a record-breaking victory,” Shah said in a tweet.

Key winners

In Godhra, BJP’s C K Raulji defeated his Congress rival Rashmitaben Chauhan by 35,198 votes on Thursday. Raulji bagged 96,223 votes, while Chauhan got 61,025 votes. Aam Aadmi Party’s Rajeshbhai Patel got 11,827 votes, while the AIMIM’s Hasan Kachaba secured 9,508 votes in the communally sensitive Assembly seat of Godhra. Rauli had defended the remission of 11 Bilkis Bano case convicts saying that they were ‘sanskari brahmins’.

BJP’s Mohan Konkani wrested the Scheduled Tribe (ST) seat of Vyara in Tapi district by defeating four-time Congress MLA Punabhai Gamit, who was pushed to the third slot due to an impressive show by new entrant Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

The Vyara Assembly seat had given Gujarat its first tribal chief minister – Amarsinh Chaudhary. This seat for the first time witnessed a contest between two Christian candidates fielded by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Congress.

BJP supporters during a public meeting of Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel after BJP’s victory in the Gujarat Assembly elections, in Ahmedabad, Thursday, December 8, 2022. Photo: PTI

It was a high-stakes three-cornered fight between the BJP, Congress and AAP. Exit polls had predicted a huge majority for the BJP in Gujarat.

The BJP views the verdict as a feat that will boost Narendra Modi’s bid for a third consecutive term as PM in the 2024 general elections.

For the Congress, its role as the main challenger to the BJP has been cut short. The party’s ‘silent campaign’ has not cut ice with people.

New entrant AAP, which has nothing to lose, gained a 12.9% vote share cutting into the Congress votes share. AAP carried out an aggressive campaign in order to establish itself as a pan-national party and a challenger to BJP at the national level.

Emboldened by the victory in the Delhi municipal elections, and in Punjab early this year, AAP hopes to make a mark through its welfare politics in Gujarat.

The BJP entered the poll fray battling anti-incumbency sentiment after its 27-year rule in the state. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the party’s face and the ruling party banked on his persona and his popularity to fight the anti-incumbency factor.

Some of the key issues in this election were unemployment, price rise, water scarcity, land acquisition for big projects and farmers not getting adequate compensation for crop damage due to excess rains.

The voting percentage in 2022 was almost four per cent less compared to 2017 – 64.33% against 68.39% in 2017. This decline was attributed to the general apathy of the urban voters to exercise their franchise.

During the campaign phase, Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the BJP addressing over 30 rallies and road shows across the state covering 182 seats.

His deputy, Union Home minister Amit Shah was stationed in the state for almost two months, micromanaging the campaign and election strategy for the BJP.

Party president J P Nadda, and chief ministers of BJP-ruled states including Yogi Adityanath, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Himanta Biswa Sarma and Pramod Sawant also aggressively campaigned for the party. Nearly all the Union ministers of the BJP campaigned in the state.

In contrast, the Congress opted for a low-key campaign with Rahul Gandhi addressing just two rallies. He was busy with his Bharat Jodo Yatra across the country.

In absence of other top leaders, Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot led the party’s campaign in the state. Party chief Mallikarjun Kharge also addressed poll rallies towards the end of the Phase 2 campaigning.

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal led an aggressive campaign for AAP, addressing several rallies and holding road shows in the last five months.

A total of 70 political outfits and 624 independents were in the fray in 2022. Apart from the main rivals BJP, Congress and AAP, 101 candidates from Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), and 26 from the Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) also contested.

In the 2017 Assembly polls, BJP won 99 seats and Congress 77 seats, while two seats went to BTP, one to NCP, and three to independents.

Ahead of this month’s elections, the BJP’s number in the House stood at 110 and Congress at 60 after 20 MLAs who won Congress seats switched over to the BJP in the last five years, three of them quitting just ahead of the elections.