Modi magic fails to work

Manas Dasgupta

GANDHINAGAR: The “Modi magic” did not work for the Bharatiya Janata Party in Gujarat in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. With the results of one seat withheld, the BJP tally in the State is only 15, just one more than what it got in the 2004 elections.

The Congress has secured 10 seats and was reported to be leading in Kheda when counting was stopped in the constituency due to a snag in an electronic voting machine.

Though some seats changed hands, in the overall tally the Congress would lose only one seat from the 12 it won in the last elections, despite the fact that the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, L.K. Advani, contested from the State.

On the eve of counting, an upbeat BJP expected to snatch at least 20 of the 26 seats in the State, confident that the presence of the “Prime Minister-in-waiting” and the “magic” of Chief Minister Narendra Modi would leave the Congress far behind. But the voters did not go all out with the BJP.

Sitting members win

Mr. Modi’s gamble to fight the elections only with “new faces” did not pay off. All four sitting members, who were re-nominated despite Mr Modi’s objections against some of them, have won, while his “new faces” lost in Patan, Porbandar, Rajkot, Dahod and Surendranagar.

Though Mr. Advani retained his Gandhinagar seat, his margin of victory got reduced from 2.17 lakh votes in 2004 to 1.21 lakh. In fact, two other BJP candidates, Balkrishna Shukla (Vadodara) and C.R. Patil (Navsari), recorded higher margins of 1.36 lakh and 1.32 lakh.

Mallika loses deposit

Dancer and social activist Mallika Sarabhai, who hoped to cause the biggest electoral upset by defeating Mr. Advani, polled only 9,168 votes and lost her deposit.

For the Congress, the biggest shock was the defeat of Union Textile Minister Shankarsinh Vaghela. He lost the Panchmahals seat by a narrow margin of 2,081 votes. He was forced to shift to the Panchmahals after his Kapadvanj seat was eliminated in delimitation. Mr. Vaghela had won from the Panchmahals in 1991, when it was known as the Godhra seat, but lost it in 1996, before moving to Kapadvanj.

Minister of State for Railways Naranbhai Rathwa was also defeated in Chhota-Udepur by a margin of over 26,000 votes. The fate of the third Union Minister from the State — Minister of State for Petroleum Dinsha Patel — is hanging in the balance in Kheda.

All three Congress “defectors” fielded by the BJP in Patan, Surendranagar and Dahod have been defeated. But the BJP defector, Somabhai Patel, who had supported the Manmohan Singh government on the nuclear deal against the party mandate and was nominated by the Congress, retained his Surendranagar seat.

BJP loses Rajkot

The biggest upset for the BJP was the loss of the Rajkot seat, which it had held for more than two decades. Besides Surendranagar, the BJP lost the Porbandar seat, while the Congress retained Jamnagar. The BJP has lost four of the eight seats in the Kutch-Saurashtra region, hitherto considered its stronghold, particularly when its now-discarded leader and former Chief Minister, Keshubhai Patel, was at the helm of the party affairs in the State.

Urban areas

But the BJP has maintained its hold in the urban constituencies, retaining all three seats in Ahmedabad-Gandhinagar, Surat, Vadodara, Junagadh and Bhavnagar. The party has also managed to reduce the Congress sway in the central Gujarat region, winning the Panchmahals, Vadodara, Broach and Chhota-Udepur seats. It left only Anand and Dahod to the Congress.

An upset Mr. Modi refused to make any comment before the media on the poll outcome. But a jubilant State Congress president Siddhartha Patel said the people had rejected Mr. Modi’s “political gimmicks.”

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