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It’s BJP all the way
Lotus continued to bloom in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home turf of Gujarat. Riding on Modi’s remarkable ability to reach out to voters across caste and class divide, and BJP chief Amit Shah’s grassroots mobilisation, the BJP proved the skeptics wrong by retaining the State for the sixth time in a row.
Though the BJP did fail to match its 2012 tally and the Congress gained solid ground in rural belt, in the end Modi and Shah duo proved that they can overcome any electoral odds. The saffron party, which romped home in all five previous Assembly polls since 1995, retained the State with the slimmest majority by winning just 99 out of 182 seats.
The result was not as grand as the saffron party had expected. Party leaders had aimed for a much bigger number of seats, but the BJP 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 anger against demonetisation and GST was visible on the ground among the business community and more than two decades of anti-incumbency posed a real challenge.
The Congress won 77 seats, compared to 61 in the 2012 elections. The party may see a silver lining in the Gujarat verdict but after its failure to retain Himachal Pradesh, the grand old party now rules only Karnataka and Punjab among the major States, besides Puducherry, Meghalaya and Mizoram. Karnataka elections are due next year.
If Shah was engaged in micro management, then Modi single-handedly led the BJP campaign. But Modi was able to win over the upset voters and convince them that he alone could take Gujarat and nation on the path of development and economic revival.
The PM must have sensed that a close contest was developing in Gujarat. Not surprisingly, he addressed 34 rallies in the State. Compare this with 31 rallies he had addressed in a much bigger State like Uttar Pradesh, and it becomes clear how seriously Modi took the Gujarat polls.
After the tough nature of Gujarat challenge, all eyes will be on the next Budget. The farm sector may get a special attention in the Budget after the BJP conceded major ground to the Congress in rural belt. Also, focus will shift on the nature of economic reforms the PM might have planned to undertake in the weeks and months to come.
The BJP has decided to send Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Saroj Pandey as observers to finalise leadership issue in Gujarat. This was decided by the party’s highest decision-making body, Parliamentary Board, which met on Monday evening in the presence of Modi and Shah.
The results also prove wrong those who predicted that Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani is on a sticky wicket. Rupani won by a margin of over 54,000 votes from Rajkot West Assembly constituency by defeating the wealthiest candidate in fray, Indranil Rajguru of the Congress.
During the initial phase of counting, Rajguru was leading with nearly 3,000 votes, but later the tables turned in favour of the Gujarat CM.
Apart from Rupani, Gujarat’s Deputy CM who also was trailing during first two hours finally emerged victorious by margin over 12,700 votes from Mehsana constituency in North Gujarat. While senior Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama won with small lead of 300 votes from Dholka constituency in Ahmedabad district, another senior BJP leader and former Finance Minister Saurabha Dalal won from Botad constituency in Saurashtra region by the margin of 800 odd votes.
Five Ministers in the Gujarat Government lost the Assembly polls to Congress rivals. Of these, Atmaram Parmar and Chimanbhai Sapariya were Cabinet Ministers. Parmar, a prominent Dalit leader of the BJP, bit the dust against Congress’ Pravinbhai Maru in Gadhada (SC) seat in Botad district. Maru scored 69,457 votes against Parmar’s 60,033. Sapariya went down fighting against Congress’ Chiragbhai Kalariya in Jamjodhpur constituency.
Kalariya’s tally stood at 64,212, while Sapariya ended up clinching 61,694 votes. Shankar Chaudhary, Keshaji Chauhan, and Shabdsharan Tadvi are the three Ministers of State who failed to retain their respective seats. Chaudhary lost to Congress’ Geniben Thakor. Chaudhary secured 95,673 votes against Thakor’s tally of 1,02,328 votes.
Chauhan failed to taste victory by a narrow margin of 972 votes from Deodar constituency. He was defeated by Shivabhai Bhuriya of the Congress. Bhuriya pocketed 80,432 votes against Chauhan’s 79,460. Tadvi was uprooted by Congress’ Premsinh Vasava in Nandod (ST) seat. Vasava bagged 81,849 votes and Tadvi 75,520
Once again, the BJP won from highly urban seats situated in and around four biggest cities of Gujarat - Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara and Rajkot. Out of 55 such seats, the saffron brigade went on to win 44. The ruling party could win only 55 seats out of remaining 127 seats in rest of Gujarat which are coming under semi-urban and rural areas.
It was Saurashtra-Kutch region that sends highest number of representatives in Gujarat Assembly, and it is here that the BJP suffered major loss as it could win only 23 out of 54 seats. In 2012 BJP won 35 seats from the region. However in other three regions, the saffron party won all most similar number of seats minus-plus 2-3 seats. Of the total votes registered in EVMs across 182 Assembly constituency BJP could secure 49.1 per cent against Congress party’s 41.4 per cent.
Reacting on the results, Rupani said considering BJP’s 22 years long stint as the ruling party, the party’s victory was commendable. People of Gujarat once again trusted BJP’s development poll plank, said Rupani, adding decision on new Chief Minister will be taken in the meeting of party’s elected members in Assembly in consultation with party high command.
On victory of OBC leader Alpesh Thakore and Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani, Rupani said they won but big Congress leaders lost and it would give new direction to the Gujarat’s politics.
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