The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stormed to power in Gujarat with a historic mandate, winning a record-breaking 156 out of 182 seats, a seventh consecutive victory for the party in the native state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The party’s vote share also jumped to 52.5%. The BJP’s victory has also battered the previous Congress record of winning 149 seats in 1985 during the Madhavsinh Solanki era of Gujarat politics.
The BJP’s stupendous electoral performance stunned the opposition and even the party’s own members, sweeping cities and rural districts as triangular contests involving the BJP, the Congress and new entrant, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), catapulted the ruling party to power with unprecedented numbers.
The AAP’s entry into the State’s electoral politics, snagging five seats with an impressive vote share of around 13%, has ensured the decimation of the main opposition party, the Congress, which won just 17 seats and saw its vote share shrink to a mere 27.3%. The disastrous performance of the Congress can be gauged from the fact that it has drawn blank in almost 15 out of 33 districts, and has not won a single urban seat in cities like Surat, Vadodara, Rajkot, Jamnagar, Bhavnagar and Gandhinagar.
The Opposition party completely collapsed in the tribal belt as well, as massive support to the AAP’s candidates there resulted in triangular contests that directly benefitted the BJP. The ruling party won 23 out of the 27 seats reserved for Scheduled Tribes (STs) across the tribal belt from north to south. The Congress’ fall was steep even in its traditional bastions in central and north Gujarat, besides Saurashtra where it had won handsomely in the previous elections in 2017.
The BJP completely swept districts such as Amreli, Rajkot, Morbi, Dwarka, Kutch, Surendranagar, Kheda, Gandhinagar, Panchmahal, Sabarkantha and Valsad, winning all the seats in these districts besides retaining all seats in the cities. In fact, in Ahmedabad city, the BJP won 14 out of 16 seats, wresting two seats from the Congress, while also winning all five seats in rural Ahmedabad, again wresting two seats from the opposition party.
Powered by the Prime Minister’s glitzy campaign that began in March, almost immediately after the declaration of results in the Assembly polls of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Uttarakhand, the ruling party’s strategy of dropping as many as 42 sitting legislators and replacing them with new faces and bringing in powerful Congress turncoats in places where it was weak has paid handsome dividends electorally.
Most of the Congress turncoats have won the polls, including Other Backward Classes (OBC) face Alpesh Thakor, Patidar quota agitation leader Hardik Patel, tribal leader Rajendrasinh Rathwa, son of Congress veteran Mohansinh Rathwa, and prominent Koli face Kunvarji Bavaliya.
In Saurashtra and Kutch, which account for 54 seats, the Congress only won in Porbandar, Manavadar and Somnath, while the AAP won from Botad, Visavadar, Gariadhar and Jamjodhpur, with all remaining seats going to the ruling party. The AAP’s Chief Ministerial face Isudan Gadhavi also faced defeat from Khambhalia in the Saurashtra region.
Similarly, in north Gujarat, the Congress could only win two seats in Patan district, four in Banaskantha and one in Mehsana, while all other seats went to the ruling BJP. The AAP has not won any seat in north Gujarat, but it did split the opposition vote, benefiting the BJP in at least seven seats in the region.
In central Gujarat, the BJP swept all seats in Kheda, Panchmahal, Dahod and Chhota Udepur districts, while ceding two seats in Anand and one in Mahisagar district to the opposition party.
The same story was repeated in south Gujarat where, except for one tribal seat in Vansda which went to the Congress and one in Dediapada to the AAP, all other seats have gone to the ruling party.
The three Independent candidates who won -- Dhawalsinh Zala from Bayad, Dharmedrasinh Vaghela from Vaghodia and Mavji Desai from Dhanera -- are BJP rebels and had contested independently after they were denied ticket by the party. Now, they are likely to join the ruling camp.
PM’s intensive campaign
The Prime Minister spearheaded the party’s victory in the State by campaigning in over 100 Assembly seats directly through rallies or roadshows. Since March, he has made over two dozen trips to his home State, preparing the ground for the saffron party’s record-setting victory.
The State polls were held in two phases, with polling for the first phase in 89 seats held on December 1, and for the remaining 93 seats on December 5. The elections witnessed a turnout of 64.33%, around 4% less than the previous Assembly polls in 2017. Of the 4.9 crore registered voters, only 3.16 crore voted in the 2022 elections.
After the results were declared, both Gujarat CM Bhupendra Patel and State party chief C.R. Paatil credited the leadership of the Prime Minister for the unprecedented victory. The Prime Minister also thanked the people of Gujarat for the mandate and said that the development journey will continue with greater pace.
The new government led by Bhupendra Patel will be sworn in on December 12.