The Bharatiya Janata Party is all set to return to power for a seventh consecutive term, equalling the record of the Left government in West Bengal. The BJP also looks set to shatter the previous record of Congress, under the leadership of Madhavsinh Solanki, winning 149 seats in the 1985 Gujarat elections.
As per the trends available so far, the BJP is leading on a whopping 159 seats against 15 for the Congress and five for AAP. The performance is the BJP’s best ever, improving upon its tally of 127 seats it won under Narendra Modi as the chief minister in the aftermath of the post-Godhra riots.
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Far from the challenge that the Congress had put up in the 2017 elections, the grand old party is set to register its worst-ever performance. As per trends available at 12 noon, the Congress was leading on 12 seats, down from 77 seats it had won in the last elections. Newcomers Aam Aadmi Party, on the other hand, were leading on 5 seats at the time of filing this report. In the 182-member Gujarat Assembly, the halfway mark is 91.
The BJP’s emphatic win makes it the only party, except for the CPI (M), to have formed a government for a seventh consecutive term. The Left government had ruled West Bengal for 34-odd years from 1977 to 2011.
The victory comes despite the voter turnout in the Gujarat elections plunging 4 per cent as compared to 2017. The low voter turnout was seen as a signal to anti-incumbency factors, fatigue, and some disillusionment among voters. BJP rebels fighting elections independently as well as the Morbi bridge accident killing 134 people also threatened to unsettle the BJP.
The Modi-led BJP government also faces criticism over rising unemployment, joblessness, slow growth, and an albatross of price rise around its neck on the national front. In Gujarat, water issues in some boroughs of the state, land acquisition for big projects and farmers not getting proper compensation for crop damage due to excess rains were among key issues that threatened the BJP.
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Defying all odds, the BJP regained people’s trust as voters remained unperturbed in Gujarat, a state which has been a bastion of the party for decades and where Modi served as chief minister from 2001 to 2014. This massive mandate only solidifies the perception that ‘Modi magic’ takes precedence over any issue.
In Gujarat, PM Modi had personally led the campaign from the front. He frequented the state and addressed around 30 rallies. The PM held a record 50-km roadshow at a stretch during the campaign.
In many ways, the grand Gujarat win will boost the morale of the “new BJP” under the leadership of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah who will face the real battle of ballot in the Hindi-heartland states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh which will go to polls in November-December next year. In 2023, the results of these state elections will test the Modi-led BJP’s real popularity in the Lok Sabha elections in 2024.