India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) retained Gujarat for the sixth time in succession and wrested power from Congress in Himachal Pradesh.
In Gujarat, BJP won 99 seats while Congress managed to win 80 of the total 182 seats. In Himachal Pradesh, BJP won 44 seats while Congress got just 21 of the total 68 seats.
Congress party’s new president Rahul Gandhi said he respects people’s mandate and congratulated BJP for its poll success.
He said Congress’ tally went up in the BJP bastion and congratulated party workers in the state who made this possible. Congress leaders said the party’s improved electoral performance in Gujarat was because of Rahul’s inspiring leadership.
Congratulating BJP leaders of the state for the victory, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the people of Gujarat voted for corrupt-free government and development. Thanking the voters of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, Modi said his government will continue its focus on projects that benefit people and ensure development.
Modi said the victory in Gujarat elections is special for him as his colleagues continued the good work after he moved to New Delhi. He attacked Congress for spreading ‘misinformation’ and rumours in Gujarat about ‘vikas’ or development. Voters hit back at such rumour mongers, he said. He also accused the Congress of dividing people of Gujarat on caste lines.
Responding to the election results, BJP president Amith Shah called it a victory against dynastic politics and communal polarisation of Congress party.
Hardik Patel, leader of a section of the Patel community which switched to Congress, alleged that electronic voting machines were tampered with in Rajkot, Surat and Ahmedabad to ensure success for BJP. But Chief Election Commissioner AK Joti rejected Patel’s allegation saying the paper trail ensured there was no scope for manipulating the process.
At the initial stages of counting, Congress was trailing far behind BJP in Gujarat. Then it raced ahead and even crossed BJP’s lead at one stage. Congress lead in the farmer belt of Saurashtra region went up to 31 from 16 while BJP’s lead fell to 22 from 32. Farmers in the region were upset by the agricultural policies pursued by the federal government and the fall in the lead may be a reflection of that. Voters in Kutch and northern districts too supported Congress.
At the same time, Congress seats fell in central Gujarat from previous election’s 22 seats to 18 seats. Here BJP seats went up to 42 from 39.
BJP was able to win more seats in areas where minority communities and dalits form a major chuck of the electorate. This is significant as Congress was trying to project BJP as a fascist and pro-Hindu force which will pose a threat to them. Congress, despite its secular image, even tried to woo dalit and Patel communities in a desperate attempt to come back to power in the state after more than two decades.
Although BJP could not perform well in agricultural areas, voters in urban and southern districts supported the saffron party in a big way.
Dalit leader Jignesh Mewani won his maiden election from Vadgam constituency and Other Backward Class leader Alpesh Thakur won from Radhanpura constituency.
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani retained his Rajkot West seat by defeating Congress’ Indranil Rajyaguru and Deputy Prime Minister Nitin Patel won from Mehsana.
In a shock upset, BJP leader Prem Kumar Dhumal, who was expected to become chief minister of Himachal Pradesh, lost the Sujanpur constituency. He was defeated by a former aide, Rajinder Rana, who left BJP to join the Congress in 2014.