BJP workers celebrate the party's victory in the Gujarat Assembly elections. Photo: PTI
Ahmedabad: Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party on Thursday headed for a record victory in Gujarat as counting of votes entered the last leg, giving the ruling party a lead in 100 seats and a win in another 57 seats in the 182-member state assembly. The Congress party was seen finishing a distant second – it had won 6 seats and was leading in 10 others, while the Aam Aadmi Party was leading in 5 seats.
Others, including independent candidates, were ahead in 4 seats, the Election Commission said as most seats completed counting more than three-fourths of the votes cast in the two-phase elections held earlier this month. BJP has so far received 53 per cent of the votes counted, while Congress had 27 per cent and AAP 13 per cent. If the trends continue, the BJP would not only beat its best showing till date -- 127 seats in 2002, but also surpass the all-time record set by the Congress party in 1985, when it won 149 seats under the leadership of late Madhavsinh Solanki. In winning a seventh term, the party would also equal the Left Front's feat in West Bengal.
“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 will have live up to the expectations of the people,” said Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel, who also was headed for a handsome win from Ghatlodia in Ahmedabad.
The BJP has already announced that Patel would lead the next government in the state. The BJP has not lost an election in Gujarat since 1995. Thursday's big win will be a huge morale boost for the party, said Sanjay Kumar at the New Delhi-based Centre for the Study of Developing Societies. It will enthuse BJP's rank and file, and reinforce the impression that the party will win the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, Kumar said.
Although the Modi government is struggling with rising inflation, slowing growth and joblessness, but the economic troubles appeared to have had no impact on BJP's popularity in Gujarat. That said, the results of the two-phase elections, held earlier this month, were being watched more for the performance of the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), both locked in a battle to grab the status of the main opposition party in the state. While the Congress was not expected to replicate its creditable performance of the last assembly elections in 2017, the trends showed the party's electoral prospects in the state had been hurt by the AAP more than feared.
The party's silent campaign seems to have failed to cut ice with the electorate. The party focused mostly on door-to-door canvassing for votes as its leader Rahul Gandhi, who had aggressively campaigned in the 2017 elections, chose to stay away to focus on the Bharat Jodo Yatra -- so did other senior leaders of the party.
On the other hand, it remains to be seen if the AAP's performance in these elections would help its leader Arvind Kejriwal cement his place as a key challenger to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in parliamentary elections due in 2024.
For the AAP, which carried out a high-decibel campaign, the elections in Gujarat are also an opportunity to establish itself as a pan-national party. While the contest in Gujarat has traditionally been between the BJP and Congress, it turned three-cornered this time with the entry of the AAP. Several sitting BJP MLAs were among those who were leading.
Purnesh Modi, Kanubhai Desai and Hardik Patel were among those leading, besides Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel and Home Minister Harsh Sanghvi. Two of Congress party's key leaders in Gujarat -- Paresh Dhanani and Jignesh Mevani -- were trailing in their respective constituencies, Amreli and Vadgam.
However, its senior-most leader in the state, Arjun Modhwadia was winning in Porbandar. AAP's chief ministerial candidate Isudan Gadhvi was trailing in Khambhalia. However, its candidates were ahead in Dediapada, Gariadhar, Jamjodhpur, Visavadar, Botad, and Bhiloda seats. Two independent candidates were leading in Dhanera and Vaghodia seats.