The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is set to form governments in both Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, leading to further consolidation of the saffron party's fortunes in northern parts of the country, even as a resurgent Congress under the new leadership of President Rahul Gandhi put up a close fight but fell short.
At 5 PM, Election Commission data showed that the BJP comfortably edged past the halfway mark of 92 in the 182-seat state assembly and was projected to win 100 seats. It had won in 80 and was leading in 20 of the 154 seats for which results were known. The Congress, whose tally slipped in the course of the day, won 70 and was leading in 6 of the 77 seats it was projected to win.
This will be a record six-time win for BJP in Gujarat, a state it has ruled for two decades. Chief Minister and senior BJP leader Vijay Rupani was also set to win from Rajkot (West), a prestige seat special to the BJP for many reasons, the main being that Prime Minister Narendra Modi won his first election in February 2002 from the constituency which at that time was known as Rajkot–II.
Modi, who had campaigned extensively for Gujarat, handed the victory back to the people, saying it indicated "a strong support for politics of good governance and development."
I bow to the people of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh for their affection and trust in BJP. I assure them that we will leave no stone unturned in furthering the development journey of these states and serve the people tirelessly.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) December 18, 2017
Though these elections saw the emergence of a more confident Rahul Gandhi, ready to take on Modi in the all-too-crucial 2019 general elections, the landslide wins of two youth leaders scripted history on Monday. They may perhaps have also changed the course of the conversation in the state in the days to come. Independent candidate Jignesh Mevani, and Congress's Alpesh Thakor won from Gujarat's Vadgam and Radhanpur constituencies.
Rise Of New Leaders
The youth leaders, faces of the state's oppressed communities, burst into the scene in the run-up to the elections to unitedly fight the Goliath-like saffron party, raising issues of communal polarisation, poverty and oppression.
"I express my gratitude to the people of Vadgam for all their support. Now I will raise the voice of Gujarat's discriminated sections in the assembly," Mevani said. Gandhi conceded defeat in both states by congratulating party workers for fighting the elections with dignity.
The Congress party accepts the verdict of the people and congratulates the new governments in both states. I thank the people of Gujarat and Himachal with all my heart for the love they showed me.— Office of RG (@OfficeOfRG) December 18, 2017
The celebrations at the BJP office in Gandhinagar were initially low-key as Congress was neck-and-neck an hour after counting began. However as the BJP tally improved — albeit a lower score than its last in the state — the mood picked up among party workers. Chants of "Modi, Modi" rent the air. The PM himself raised two fingers in a victory sign outside Parliament, reassuring workers that the party will pull through despite Congress's close fight.
In Himachal Pradesh, BJP wrested power out of the hands of Congress. BJP is projected to win 44 and Congress 21 seats in the 68-seat legislative assembly.
The assembly elections were being seen as a test for both Modi and Gandhi – the former for poorly-implemented economic measures that caused mass inconvenience, and the latter for coming into his own as a political leader who can not only take on the PM in 2019, but also rally around party workers dispirited after Congress's fall from electoral fortunes in recent times.
Both Modi and Gandhi have exchanged barbs while campaigning. While Gandhi had mocked the PM about implementation of the goods and services tax (GST), calling it the Gabbar Singh Tax, Modi insinuated, without presenting evidence, Pakistani interference in collusion with the Congress in the Gujarat elections.