New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) just scraped through to victory in Gujarat, helped largely by the extensive campaign of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his home state, but the party’s lowest tally in the last 22 years can be seen as a warning bell ahead of crucial state battles in 2018 and the next Lok Sabha election, in 2019.
The results in Gujarat reflect some dissatisfaction with the policies of the party government at the state and the centre, especially demonetisation and the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
The victories in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh will help the BJP retain the electoral momentum ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, although the outcome in the western state has also given the Congress a fresh hope of taking on BJP in the coming battles.
BJP president Amit Shah said the victory in Gujarat is a victory of “developmental politics” over dynasty and appeasement, attributing the party’s lesser number of seats to the caste-based campaign of the Congress and its allies.
The BJP’s tally in Gujarat was nowhere near its stated claim of getting 150 seats in the 182-member assembly and the party could barely stop a resurgent Congress, which had stitched a broad social coalition by getting the backing of young leaders Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mewani and Alpesh Thakore.
Although the BJP’s tally went down the party took comfort in the 1.25 per cent increase in its vote share compared to 2012 polls. But in terms of the party’s vote in 2014, when it swept the state claiming all the 26 Lok Sabha seats and got 60.11 per cent, the vote share has come down considerably. The 2014 poll performance had equalled the BJP taking the lead in over 165 assembly segments.
The Congress efforts in Gujarat have yielded the party its highest seat tally in the last 27 years and its highest vote share. The party polled 41.4 per cent votes, which is 2.47 per cent more than that in 2012. The Congress also significantly improved its vote share from 2014 Lok Sabha polls when it had got 33.45 per cent votes.
AICC General Secretary in-charge of Gujarat Ashok Gehlot said the Gujarat results were neither BJP’s victory, nor Congress’ defeat.
“I feel this is a victory of our issue-based campaign. We see the results that way. No matter who forms the government, this is a moral victory for the Congress,” said Gehlot.
“In Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah’s own state, they have been brought down to their knees. Gujarat election results will have its impact in other states like Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and others,” he added.
The BJP did well in urban and semi-urban areas of the state compared to the rural areas.