The ruling BJP scrapped through to maintain its 22-year-old winning spree in Gujarat Assembly elections, albeit with an embarrassing reduction in the number of seats it won.
Coming as did just 30 months after the party won all the 26 Lok Sabha seats, the BJP’s two-digit tally of 99 is a considerable climbdown from the 127 seats it had won under the leadership of its first chief minister Keshubhai Patel.
Not only that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party could not touch the three-digit tally, the final figure is way below the target of 150 seats party chief Amit Shah had set for himself.
In contrast, the Congress has improved its tally to 77 from the 61 seats it won in 2012.
The Assembly election was keenly contested as victory margins of a dozen seats won by both the BJP and the Congress remained within 2,000 votes.
The seats won by the ruling BJP dropped drastically in view of the strong undercurrent of anti-incumbency that could be neutralised only with the intervention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, predictably with the invocation of his time-tested Gujarati `asmita’ (pride) card.
“A victory is a victory”, the BJP leaders are claiming but the Congress has been able to rub in the point that Modi is no longer invincible in his home state.
Except for the Saurashtra region, the BJP did well in almost all other regions including north Gujarat that hosts the epicentre of the Patels’ agitation for reservations in government jobs and seats in higher educational institutions.
Chief Minister Vijay Rupani retained his Rajkot (West) seat by a comfortable margin against the state’s richest candidate Indranil Rajyaguru of the Congress.
State BJP president Jitubhai Vaghani won from Bhavnagar (West) constituency. Congress stalwarts like former Leader of Opposition Shaktisinh Gohil, former Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee chief Arjun Modhwadia, former Union minister Tushar Chaudhary and former GPCC chief Siddharth Patel lost ~ the last two being sons of former chief ministers Amarsinh Chaudhry and Chimanbhai Patel, respectively.
But young Dalit leader Jignesh Mewani won the Vadgam (SC) seat in Banaskantha district as an independent despite every trick by the ruling BJP to defeat him.
The other young leader Alpesh Thakor, who rallied the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) against the BJP, won the Radhanpur seat as a Congress nominee.
Surprise victories came for the BJP from Surat where the party performed well in the Patel-dominated seats which saw agitations by the community and well- attended rallies by the PAAS leader Hardik Patel.
The BJP’s victories in Varachha and Limbayat seats in Surat prove that not all who attended the high-decibel rallies of the PAAS leader have voted against the ruling party. Other urban centres like Ahmedabad and Vadodara retained their reputation as BJP fortresses by electing most of its nominees.