STATE TIMES NEWS
NEW DELHI: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Thursday registered a record-breaking victory in Gujarat, with the party winning 156 out of 182 seats – a seventh consecutive win for the party in the state assembly elections. While the Congress secured a majority with 40 seats in Himachal Pradesh, the grand old party will now have to choose a chief minister in the state where it saw factional feuds just a few months ago.
The enduring sway Prime Minister Narendra Modi has on the Gujarati consciousness has led the BJP to the best-ever tally for any party in the state assembly polls, reducing to insignificance people’s perceived discontent with issues like inflation and local leadership.
In his barnstorming campaign across the state in which he addressed 31 rallies and led three road shows, Modi travelled through various regions of his home state, urging voters to make “Bhupendra break the records of Narendra”, an exhortation for a higher tally for the Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel-led government than what he had got while helming the state for nearly 13 years.
And it is evident that voters have listened to him.
The Election Commission’s data has put the BJP’s vote share at around 53 per cent, a historic first for the party. Helped by a split in the Opposition’s votes due to the emergence of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the BJP broke the record of 149 seats won by the Congress under Madhavsinh Solanki in 1985.
For those travelling through the western state, it was clear that voters may have certain issues with the BJP, in power in the state since 1998, regarding its local leadership and certain aspects of its administration but, for most, it did not count before the party’s larger governance architecture, ideological thrust and, above all, their faith in Modi.
“PM Modi has emerged as a rare leader whose popularity is unaffected by factors like anti-incumbency or the long duration of stay in power.
“In fact, his popularity has risen with time. He was a ‘jan-jan ke neta’ (a leader of masses) and is now ‘jan-man ke neta’ (a leader of masses and their hearts),” Shiwanand Dwivedi, who has written and edited four books on the BJP and its leaders, said.
People may have issues with the BJP, its MLAs and its governments but their trust in Modi overrides everything else, added Dwivedi, who is associated with BJP-linked think tank Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation.
While Modi’s campaign extensively covered all four regions of the state, there was a special thrust on tribal regions and parts of Saurashtra where the BJP had suffered a drop in tally in 2017 for a variety of issues, including the Patidar agitation. His road shows traversed though most constituencies in cities like Surat, Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar.
The Congress hit rock bottom in Gujarat, winning only 17 seats in the 182-member state assembly
Former BJP president and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said, “The biggest credit for this victory goes to the public’s trust in the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his popularity and credibility. Congratulations to him and thanks to the public.”
State Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel, set for a second term, and state BJP chief C R Paatil credited people’s faith in Modi as the biggest factor behind the party’s historic win.
Victory in Gujarat will make the BJP the only party other than the Communist Party of India (Marxist) to have won seven straight Assembly elections. The CPI(M), which ruled West Bengal for 34 years from 1977 to 2011, had also won seven consecutive elections.
The Congress on Thursday wrested Himachal Pradesh from the BJP winning 40 seats in the 68-member Assembly in the hill state which maintained its tradition of not voting any incumbent government to power since 1985.
According to the results declared by the Election Commission, the BJP won 25 seats, while eight state ministers including Suresh Bhardwaj, Ram Lal Markanda and Surveen Chaudhary lost.
The Independents won from three constituencies and the Aam Aadmi Party, which had contested from 67 seats, failed to open its account.
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge hailed the people of Himachal Pradesh and his party leaders as the Congress secured a much-needed win, riding on anti-incumbency and a slew of poll promises including bringing back the old pension scheme and providing jobs to the youth and Rs 1500 to every woman.