Ahmedabad: Political pundits had said the Gujarat Assembly elections were a referendum on Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. By that yardstick he has won—resoundingly.
The BJP won 117 seats in the 182-member Assembly, slightly less than the 127 it got in 2002 at the height of communal riots, to return the party to power for a fourth successive term, and third for himself. Modi can take full credit for the victory as he had selected most candidates.
As BJP offices celebrated across Gujarat and cheered him when he reached the party office in Ahmedabad, Modi, 57, sought to cement cracks in the BJP ranks by crediting the win to the "sweat and toil" of its activists and national leaders, fully knowing that he was the principal architect of the landslide win.
Senior BJP leader L K Advani, a staunch supporter of Modi, said his party's victory signalled its "comeback as the frontrunner in the next parliamentary elections".
The Congress, which was hoping to end Modi's six-year reign that began in October 2001, suffered a humiliating defeat despite the overt and covert backing of the BJP dissidents including former chief minister Keshubhai Patel.
The Congress won 59 seats: only eight more than what it had in the outgoing assembly.
The NCP, a Congress ally, won three seats, the Janata Dal (U) a BJP ally but which did not associate Modi in its campaign, bagged one seat while two seats went to independents. UP Chief Minister Mayawati’s BSP failed to make a mark, proving Gujarat was essentially a Congress-BJP battleground.
Modi himself registered an impressive victory from Maninagar
constituency, winning by a margin of 87,161 votes. Modi, who secured a total of 1,39,568 votes, comfortably defeated his nearest Congress rival and Union Minister Dinsha
Patel, who polled 52,407 votes.
BJP sweeps almost all regions
Defying predictions, the challenge of the BJP dissidents failed to derail Modi in Saurashtra. Barring central Gujarat, where it suffered reverses, the BJP managed to sweep all other areas.
Vote Share Analysis: South Gujarat
Ultimately, it were the north Gujarat and Saurashtra regions of the state that put Modi in a commanding position. North Gujarat, which saw the worst violence in 2002, went almost wholly with the BJP.
A quick analysis of the results shows that the BJP has done reasonably well in the Assembly seats in the coastal belt where the people were obviously impressed with the 'Sagar Khedu Yojna' for fishermen. Another key factor in improving the BJP's overall tally was the party's handsome performance in northern Gujarat was the return of milk cooperative tycoon Vipul Chaudhary to the BJP fold.
The BJP has also done well in several Muslim-dominated areas as well as in the Saurashtra region where the powerful Patel lobby had turned against Modi.
The Congress, on the other hand, has done well in the tribal areas adjoining Madhya Pradesh.
Pitted against Modi were just not the Congress and BJP dissidents but also a miffed VHP and sections of Hindu monks who had backed the BJP in 2002. Knowing that Modi had become a larger than life figure, even the RSS seemed to be wary of him.
Vote Share Analysis: Saurashtra
Only one out of the seven sitting BJP MLAs, who had crossed over to the Congress, managed to win the elections. The rebels were not able to swing Patel or Koli votes to the Congress.
Bauku Unghad, who won from Babra, was the only successful rebel BJP candidate. His associates Bechar Bhadani, Dhiru Gajera, Balu Tanti, Narendrasinh Jadeja, Gopal Bhuva and Ramila Bara lost the elections.
In Saurashtra and Kutch, which is the home turf of former chief ministers and Modi critics Keshubhai Patel and Suresh Mehta, the BJP managed to increase its tally to 43 seats out of the total 58 seats in the regions. Last time the BJP had won 39 seats from the area.
Ultimately, it was north and Saurashtra regions of the state that put Modi in a commanding position.
Vote Share Analysis: Central Gujarat
Political analyst GVL Narasimha Rao told IANS that although the result would have a national impact Modi was unlikely to leave Gujarat for now.
"Modi is going to be around in politics for a long time to come," he said. "Having announced Advani as the prime ministerial candidate, the BJP has willy-nilly stopped Modi in his tracks. But he is a patient man. He is in no hurry."
Rao explained what went wrong with the Congress.
"In Gujarat, the Congress has to forget the past and fight for the future. In this election they had a very negative approach. They were trying to remind people about the gory past (the 2002 anti-Muslim violence that killed over a thousand people). And failed. They fell into the trap of the ultra secularists. There was also the pressure of the media. All this undid them."
Vote Share Analysis: North Gujarat
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who had campaigned actively in Gujarat for the Congress along with party president Sonia Gandhi, telephoned Modi and congratulated him on the win, the BJP's greatest moment of glory after its rout in the 2004 parliamentary election. Modi called the verdict a "positive vote".
A dejected Congress grudgingly admitted that Modi's showing was a "remarkable achievement". "We are deeply disappointed by the result," Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal and Congress leader said here.
"We will have to analyse (what went wrong). (Our) confidence was misplaced. While we have made no substantial gains, Modi has held on to its lead, almost held on to its lead, which is a remarkable achievement," the minister said.
The new BJP MLAs will meet in Gandhinagar on Monday to elect Modi as the leader of the Legislature Party, paving the way of his becoming the Chief Minister for the third time.
(With IANS, PTI and UNI)