Ahmedabad/Shimla: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the Gujarat assembly polls for a record sixth consecutive term on Monday, and was set to evict the Congress in Himachal Pradesh, tightening the party’s grip over the country’s politics.
The Gujarat results were close, with BJP and Congress running neck and neck in the morning. At midday, BJP pulled ahead, and by 6.30pm 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 Mevani.
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 chief minister.
“I once again offer the hardworking party workers many congratulations. This is not an ordinary 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.”
Rahul 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 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.
In Himachal, another Congress-ruled state has slipped from its grasp into BJP control. The Congress now rules only Karnataka and Punjab among the major states, besides Puducherry, Meghalaya and Mizoram. Karnataka elections are due next year.
“We have set a record in the history of the BJP by winning consecutive assembly polls… Anti-incumbency is not working there. The prime minister’s popularity is intact. Amit Shah’s strategy has worked,” BJP vice president Shyam Jaju said.
As the victories became clear, party workers gathered in the streets and headquarters, distributing sweets and bursting firecrackers.