Modi magic continues in Gujarat, BJP breaks records with landslide victory
Deccan Chronicle.| Sanjay Basak
With this historic win, the BJP returnedto power in Gujarat for the seventh consecutive time
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi flashes victory sign at the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) headquarters in New Delhi, India, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist party retained its 27-year control of his home state of Gujarat with a commanding election victory, but lost power in northern Himachal Pradesh state and in the city of New Delhi, according to a nearly complete vote count Thursday. (Photo: AP)
NEW DELHI: The slogan "Yahan toh bas Modi hain, unka hi chalta jadu hain (Only Modi matters)" turned into reality as, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP created electoral magic by establishing a convincing lead in 157 of 182 Assembly seats in Gujarat.
The BJP shattered the 37-year-old record of 149 seats won by then Congress chief minister Madhavsinh Solanki. The BJP’s vote share also jumped from 42 per cent in 2017 to a massive 55 per cent in this election.
With this historic win, the BJP returned to power in Gujarat for the seventh consecutive time. After the stupendous win in Gujarat, Prime Minister Modi addressed party workers at the BJP’s headquarters in New Delhi.
Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel will be sworn in for the second time at a swearing-in-ceremony to be held in Ahmedabad on December 12, which will be attended by Modi.
With Thursday’s sweeping landslide win in Gujarat, the BJP has also equalled the CPM-led Left Front seven consecutive victories in West Bengal.
Torn to shreds in Gujarat, the Congress, which is struggling to bag even 17 seats, heaved a sigh of relief with the party moving towards forming a government in Himachal Pradesh. The hill state remained true to its tradition of changing the government in every election.
Besides adhering to this tradition, the Congress could manage to wrest the state from the BJP following overwhelming support of government employees. Nearly two lakh government employees in the state reportedly hold the power to swing at least five per cent of the votes.
The Congress’ election promise of reviving the old pension scheme and generating employment seemed to have worked in the party’s favour. It is further learnt that the apple lobby, which dominates the upper regions of the state, was also upset with the ruling BJP following the "low rates" being decided by a powerful corporate lobby, sources said.
Owing to the lack of industry and unemployment, a large chunk of the youth from Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand join the Army. A BJP leader indicated that the "Agniveer" scheme, under which soldiers would be recruited only for four years, had caused major heartburn.
The women’s vote, which usually goes to the BJP, shifted to the Congress following the increasing price of LPG cylinders.
In the Gujarat campaign, the sound and fury generated by the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party did not translate into seats, but the party managed to bag nearly 13 per cent vote share. While the AAP is leading in only five seats, it is all set to get the status of a national party now.
While the BJP’s electoral victory in Gujarat was a foregone conclusion, what stunned political pundits was the scale of the party’s triumph. Set to bag almost 157 of 182 Assembly berths, the BJP not merely set an all-time record but turned the Opposition campaign into a farce.
The Congress, which bagged 77 Assembly berths in 2017, is all set to record its worst-ever score in Gujarat. Its vote share also saw a sharp decline from over 30 per cent in 2017 to less than 27 per cent during this election.
The Opposition campaign to target the Gujarat BJP fell flat as the party even won the Morbi Assembly constituency, that drew national attention after over 135 people died following the collapse of a hanging bridge there. BJP candidate Amrutiya Kantilal from Morbi led with a margin of nearly 40,000 votes.
The Gujarat election was a Modi show all the way. The PM not merely addressed over 30 public rallies but also held a 50-km road show covering 16 Assembly berths, reportedly the longest ever by any Indian political leader.
Though AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal, who had been virtually camping in Gujarat, addressed innumerable rallies and held road shows, he was blown to bits by the Modi blitzkrieg. The AAP had claimed it would win nearly 90 Assembly berths. While the party could not come anywhere near that tall clam, it managed to enter Modi’s lair with four seats and a healthy vote share.
Compared to the BJP and AAP, the Congress was nowhere to be seen. Preoccupied with his Bharat Jodo Yatra, Rahul Gandhi addressed only two rallies in Surat and Rajkot in the state. Congress candidates lost in both these constituencies. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, AICC general secretary, stayed put and campaigned intensively in Himachal Pradesh, where the party has returned to power.
The Congress shot itself in the foot when it attacked the Prime Minister by calling him "Ravan" and levelled barbs like "Hum Modiji ko unki aukaat batana chahete hain" (We want to show Modi his status). The Prime Minister and the party milked these insults to their advantage. What the Congress failed to realise was Modi’s "emotional connect" with the people of Gujarat. "Gujaratis cannot tolerate insults of its tallest leader and its son of the soil," a BJP leader said.
While both the BJP and AAP threw in all its resources and loomed large all over the state and constituencies, Congress leaders, missing from the action, kept harping about their "silent" campaign, which eventually proved to be disastrous for the party.
It can be mentioned that besides the Modi magic, the BJP had started scripting its electoral gameplan much ahead of the polls. The party arrested anti-incumbency by replacing virtually the entire Cabinet including the then chief minister, Vijay Rupani.
The party brought in Bhupendra Patel from the Kadava Patidar community. The party also scripted the return of the influential Patidar leaders, including Hardik Patel. The BJP also invaded the Congress-dominated tribal belts in Gujarat and was leading in 24 of 27 seats. In 2017 the Congress had won 15 of the 27 seats in the tribal belt.
Even though the BJP did not field a single Muslim candidate, it was leading in a majority of Muslim-dominated pockets. The Muslim vote apparently split between the Congress and the AIMIM, which had fielded 13 candidates.
While Modi held over 30 rallies, leaving nothing to chance, Union home minister Amit Shah camped in the state for over a month to finetune the party’s campaign strategy. The home minister also micromanaged each and every campaign detail. Both Modi and Shah exhorted party leaders to work towards increasing the voting percentage to sculpt a record victory.
Besides talking about reservations, employment and other issues, the BJP pressed into service UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma to play the aggressive Hindutva card.
While Yogi Adityanath talked about the revamping of Somnath and Dwarkadhish temples in Gujarat, the Assam CM went a step ahead by saying "Aftab Ameen Poonawala (accused in the horrific murder of Shradhha in Delhi) would be born in every city, and we would not be able to protect our society if we don’t have a strong leader."
As for Himachal Pradesh, a senior party leader observed that a complete rout of the party could be prevented only because of "Modi ji’s campaign" in the state. The Prime Minister addressed at least five rallies in the hill state.