The much anticipated assembly election results in India are in. It is a stunning victory for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Gujarat, the highest ever number of seats by any party in the state’s history, the Congress has won Himachal Pradesh, which is a huge relief to the beleaguered party and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), while winning the Delhi municipal polls, has made a dent in Gujarat but performed underwhelmingly.
The bottom line: the BJP is the dominant, formidable force, the Congress remains the key opposition party to take on the BJP pan India and the AAP is not quite ready to take that space — yet.
Here are the main takeaways for each player:
Bharatiya Janata Party
The landslide win in Gujarat for the BJP is significant for many reasons. For one, it comes after the party has already been in power for 27 years. To reach this new record is a huge achievement and it has not just come because the opposition vote was split between the Congress and the AAP.
The BJP’s vote share in Gujarat has gone up. At the time of writing this column they were up 5% from last time — at a massive 55%, which means the Modi factor plus a divided opposition has benefited the BJP.
The party fought hard in the Prime Minister’s home state and is now in power for a seventh term, a record only held by the Left in West Bengal. It underlines that PM Modi was the BJP’s biggest asset in his home state, so even in seats where there was anti incumbency at a local level, people overlooked that for the son of the soil.
We did not hear much from Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel during the campaign, again proving how Gujarat is micromanaged by Delhi. But the Modi magic did not work in Himachal, where the PM lead the campaign as well. Factionalism also hurt the party here and this too was a prestige battle, in the home state of party president JP Nadda.
First, the good news. The Congress has wrested Himachal Pradesh from the BJP. The bad news — the grand old party was trounced in Gujarat, with its lowest ever seat tally in the state.
The story of the Congress in these elections is the story of two campaigns — one fought in Himachal lead by Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and other leaders who addressed multiple rallies, and the other in Gujarat, where the party was invisible and gave up the fight even before it began.
Rahul Gandhi and the Congress have been so busy with the Bharat Jodo Yatra that they just exited Gujarat and didn’t even try. For a party that actually gave a good fight to the BJP in 2017, this was inexplicable. The opposite is true in Himachal, where the Congress had a good campaign.
Perhaps it also helps that polarisation is not really an issue in the hill state with a small minority population. Ultimately though these results show that the Congress may be down but is not quite out.
Aam Aadmi Party
It was an underwhelming start for the AAP in Gujarat. Arvind Kejriwal campaigned hard in the state, and started fairly early in the year. But the AAP’s biggest achievement has been bringing the Congress vote share down in Gujarat and getting the status of a national party.
This means the AAP could emerge as a force to reckon with in the state some years from now. However in terms of seats, it has been a poor performance for them. Their star faces, including the Chief Ministerial candidate, Isudan Gadhvi lost.
You have to hand it to AAP, they are audacious if nothing else — running a high voltage campaign, but substantively they still have a long way to go for any general election to become about Modi vs Kejriwal.