The ruling BJP on Monday retained power in Gujarat for a record sixth time by securing 99 seats. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley when asked who the next Chief Minister of Gujarat will be or whether the party high command was thinking of replacing him or whether the current CM was still the front-runner for the post said, ”I think a CM who gets you 49% votes, is a popular CM of a popular government, and a leader.” He also said that BJP has defied anti-incumbency and in three of the four rural areas of Gujarat, the party has done reasonably well. He was speaking to News18. While the BJP celebrated all across Gujarat and in Delhi, the 99-seat tally was far less than the 150 BJP President Amit Shah had set for the party to win and 17 less than what it got in 2012 despite intense campaigning by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, outside Parliament, a beaming Modi flashed a V sign to celebrate the victory in his home state. Senior BJP leaders taunted Rahul Gandhi and said the result proved that the people had embraced the Gujarat model of development.
But the BJP’s overall vote share in the state plunged from 60.11 percent notched in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls to 49 percent, indicating a sharp erosion in support base in a state which the party considers its fortress. The vote share of the Congress, which joined hands with Patidar leader Hardik Patel, Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani and OBC leader Alpesh Thakore, soared from 33.45 percent in 2014 to 41.5 percent. Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani brushed aside reports of BJP’s waning support, saying the winner was always the king, “Jo jeeta wo hi Sikander.”
#EXCLUSIVE | I think a CM who gets you 49% votes, is a popular CM, and a leader: @arunjaitley, Union Finance Minister, tells @bhupendrachaube, when asked about Gujarat CM choice | #ElectionsWithNews18 | LIVE UPDATES: https://t.co/8coAq3AUZ0 pic.twitter.com/Zo4Y4C6V9L
— News18 (@CNNnews18) December 18, 2017
As the vote count began across Gujarat at 8 a.m., at one point the Congress leads went past the BJP’s, giving a scare to the ruling party and sending the stock markets plunging. The BJP, however, managed to recover lost ground and eventually went past the half-way mark of 92 seats needed to control the 182-member House.
Chief Minister Vijay Rupani (Rajkot West) and Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel (Mehsana) trailed to the Congress early in the day before bouncing back and winning. While Rupani won by 50,412 votes, Patel’s victory margin was 7,951 votes. The BJP also held on in most seats affected by the Patidar agitation demanding job quotas, provoking community leader Hardik Patel to complain about faulty Electronic Voting Machines.
While the BJP dominated the Congress in South, Central and North Gujarat, the Congress held the upper hand in the sprawling Saurashtra/Kutch region. The BJP also proved its sway over urban centres while the Congress seats came mostly from rural regions. All Congress Chief Ministerial contenders lost — Shaktisinh Gohil (Mandvi), Arjun Modhwadia (Bokhiria) and Siddharth Patel (Dabhoi). But the BJP suffered a setback in Unjha constituency which includes Modi’s hometown Vardana where he grew up.
The Gujarat election was held on December 9 and 14 and was marked by a viciousness that pitted Prime Minister Modi against the Congress, including his predecessor Manmohan Singh. Modi had been the Gujarat Chief Minister from 2001 until he became the Prime Minister in 2014. It was the first Assembly election in Gujarat after Modi shifted to New Delhi.