Gujarat’s ruling BJP on Monday pledged to retain power as its candidates forged ahead of the main opposition Congress in 98 of the 182 Assembly seats, six more than the half-way mark needed to control the House. Trends from counting centres had indicated a see-saw battle for about 45 minutes, with the Congress at times inching ahead of the Bharatiya Janata Party. But ultimately the BJP sprinted ahead but not in the emphatic manner as exit polls had predicted. Trailing initially after the vote count began at 8 a.m., BJP nominees were on the victory lap in 98 constituencies and the Congress in 80. The probable winners in four seats appeared to be smaller parties or independents. In a surprising development, both Chief Minister Vijay Rupani (Rajkot West) and Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel (Mehsana) were trailing to their Congress opponents. At one time, overjoyed Congress activists, expecting a victory, began celebrating in Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar. The stock markets too took a beating. But the Congress celebrations were shortlived. “We are going to form a government in Gujarat. People have voted for us on development issues,” BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain told the media.
Before the BJP crossed the half-way mark, Congress spokesperson Shobha Oza was equally confident. “People have got sick and tired of the 22 years of BJP misrule in Gujarat. The Gujarat model which the BJP touted so proudly to take power nationally is not clicking in Gujarat… We are sure we will form the government.” It was the first Assembly election in Gujarat since Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister in 2014. Modi had led the BJP to victory in the election in 2012.