Congress leaders on Thursday conceded defeat in Gujarat, but said it was “not open skies” for Chief Minister Narendra Modi, nursing national ambitions.
“This Gujarat election proves that it’s not open skies for Narendra Modi,” External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid told reporters apparently seeking to underline that the Chief Minister will not have an easy task ahead.
When asked why Congress is unable to defeat Mr Modi in Gujarat, Mr Khurshid said, “Why is Modi not able to defeat us in the country.”
His remarks came in the backdrop of a section of the BJP projecting Mr Modi as the most prominent prime ministerial candidate of the party in the next Lok Sabha polls.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath sought to project the trends in Gujarat as an indication of improving popularity of Congress in the BJP-ruled State.
“In Gujarat, BJP had made tall claims that it will get 150 seats and that there will be a wave in its favour. But it has now been proved that Congress has emerged stronger and BJP is weak now,” he told reporters outside Parliament House.
To a question on claims by Congress that BJP will be routed in the Assembly election in Gujarat, he said, “We knew victory is difficult, but we were sure that we would emerge stronger.”
Referring to the Himachal Pradesh Assembly poll result, Mr Nath claimed, “The defeat of BJP shows the direction in which the wind is blowing.”
'Congress is winner in Gujarat'
As results poured in from Gujarat, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram on Thursday said the Congress was a winner there also as it has been able to contain the BJP in the state.
“Congress has won in Himachal Pradesh. In Gujarat too, I think Congress is a winner. Congress has gained several seats and BJP has been contained, the last numbers that I saw, (it was) below 117. If the BJP does not cross 117 and Congress has improved its tally, Congress is a clear winner in Gujarat too,” he told reporters in New Delhi.
On the victory of BJP in the polls, he said, “That was expected. The Government and the bureaucracy there has a stranglehold over the system. That is a general perception there.”
“The important point is that the kind of sweeping victory was being predicted is not there. The fact is BJP has been contained below the number it had last time and Congress has improved its tally, even if marginally, it shows that the exaggerated claims made by the BJP are not correct,” the Finance Minister said.
On suggestions that the results in Gujarat could be an indicator for the 2014 general elections, Mr. Chidambaram said, “We are not thinking on the lines of the 2014 elections. That is still some 16 months away".
On the Gujarat poll outcome, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal said the verdict has shown that people who were against Mr. Modi are against him and those with him are with him.
“Both Shakti (Singh Gohil) and Arjun (Modvadia) have not produced the kind of results which we had hoped. We will certainly look into this,” he said.