Rajat Sharma

How Modi scripted landslide win in Gujarat

AKB30 The people of Gujarat scripted history on Thursday by giving a record-breaking landslide win to BJP in the assembly elections. Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel will take oath on Monday (Dec 12), after his party, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, virtually steamrolled the opposition.

BJP has been ruling in Gujarat for the last 27 years, and by 2027, it will have completed 32 years of uninterrupted rule. In the evening, while addressing a victory rally outside BJP headquarters in Delhi, PM Modi said that the people of Gujarat have broken all past records, both in seat share and vote share, since the formation of Gujarat.

BJP won a whopping 156 out of a total of 182 seats, while the previous record was set in 1985 when the Congress had won the highest number of 149 seats. BJP’s vote share this time rose from 49.1 per cent five years ago to 52.5 per cent this time. Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal who had been flourishing a supposedly Intelligence Bureau report about his party likely to get majority, had to eat humble pie. AAP won only five seats, while the main opposition Congress which had won 77 seats five years ago, could manage to win only 17 seats this time.

The celebration outside BJP headquarters on Thursday evening clearly depicted the aura of brimming self-confidence. Prime Minister Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, most of the cabinet ministers were present, while several thousand BJP workers thronged the rally.

Modi said, “the victory is big, the responsibility is big, and we have to fulfil the aspirations of people…I had said during my campaign that Bhupendra will have to break Narendra’s record and he did it….Since 2002, each of my steps was scrutinized and criticized, but I never took umbrage. I ensured that there must be no mistake. India is going ahead in its march towards progress and our aim is make India a developed nation by 2047.”

There were wild celebrations by jubilant BJP workers in almost all the cities of Gujarat. Firecrackers were burst along with drumbeats, and the workers sprinkled coloured power on one another.

BJP’s voting percentage of 52.5 per cent said it all. Even if the votes of all the opposition parties and independents are counted together, the BJP left them behind. The 1985 landslide win of Congress under Madhavsinh Solanki took place in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s assassination that had triggered a huge sympathy wave across the nation. The Congress, at that time, had set up the KHAM caste combination consisting of Kshatriyas, Harijans, Adivasis and Muslims.

This time, Modi’s 156 landslide win broke all previous records. None of the caste combinations worked. This was the seventh consecutive victory for BJP in Gujarat. The tsunami of popular support for Modi was complete. Bhupendra Patel will be the first CM of Gujarat to sit in the assembly with the support of more than 150 MLAs. He was made the CM only 15 months ago, in September last year. At that time he had the support of only 99 MLAs.

On Thursday, Bhupendra Patel thanked Gujarat BJP chief C. R. Patil, the man behind the gargantuan state party machinery. The CM said, the landslide win indicates the level of love and trust that Narendra Modi enjoys among the people of Gujarat.

To understand the reasons behind the landslide win, one needs to go through the results from Ahmedabad and Surat. In Ahmedabad, BJP won 19 out of 21 seats, a strike rate of 90 per cent, while in Surat, it swept all the 16 seats, a strike rate of 100 per cent. BJP got good support from Muslim dominated constituencies in Ahmedabad too. Kejriwal’s AAP had pinned high hopes on Surat, but failed to open its account. Congress too failed to win a single seat in Surat.

Gujarat Home Minister Harsh Sanghvi, who won from Majura seat in Surat, said, the people have soundly replied to all those parties who were trying to divide Gujarat. Harsh Sanghvi belongs to the new, young crop of BJP leaders. Alpesh Thakore, who left Congress and joined BJP, won from Gandhinagar seat. Patidar movement leader Hardik Patel who left Congress and joined BJP won from Viramgam.

After their victory, both Alpesh Thakore and Hardik Patel said, Congress is no more working for the aspirations of the people of the state. They said, Congress’ views on national and religion-related issues were totally opposed to the prevailing sentiments of Gujarati people. This, they said, was the reason why Congress had to face a shameful defeat. Hardik Patel went a step further. He said, there is no space for any other party except BJP in Gujarat for the next 25 years. If the Congress does fails to reform itself, it will cease to exist in Gujarat, he added.

The result from Morbi, where the hanging bridge disaster killed 130 people and took place a few days before the announcement of elections, surprised everyone. Keeping popular sentiment in mind, BJP denied ticket to its sitting MLA and minister Brajesh Merja and fielded Kantilal Amritiya, who had personally jumped into the river to save many lives. Amritiya won by a margin of 61,580 votes.

BJP’s win in Gujarat after the end of polling was a foregone conclusion, but nobody expected the Congress to fare so badly. AAP leaders, who were claiming that they would come to power, never dreamed that they would have to contend with only five seats. Opposition leaders, who were saying a few days ago that Modi had to take out a 50-km long road show in Ahmedabad to save his party from defeat, had to eat humble pie.

The landslide victory of BJP in Gujarat was not achieved because of Modi’s five-day campaign and four-hour road show. The Prime Minister had begun preparations for Gujarat five years ago, when BJP won only 99 seats in 2017. Modi had then made up his mind to score a landslide win in 2022. He worked hard to achieve this objective. After the 2017 elections, several Congress MLAs deserted their party, one by one, and joined BJP. Modi’s eye was also on local and caste equations. He targeted those leaders who had a good base among tribal voters.

Modi inducted three MPs from Saurashtra in his cabinet, and then prepared his plan to take the wind out of anti-incumbency wave. In a single stroke, he replaced the entire bunch of ministers in Gujarat, including the then chief minister Vijay Rupani. He made a Patidar, Bhupendra Patel, the chief minister, and after a few days, brought Hardik Patel and OBC leader Alpesh Thakore into BJP. With full care, Modi laid out his matrix of local and caste equations, and stumped the Congress completely.

In his poll campaign, Modi spoke of Gujarati pride (asmita), and in the span of a month, he launched a large number of projects, captivating voters. He ensured that Gujarat bagged the Rs 20 billion semiconductor project and the Air Force transport aircraft project. After preparing the field, Modi went full throttle in his campaign, covering each region of Gujarat. He made emotional appeals to the people, and reminded them of the old record of Congress rule. The result was, BJP broke all records in vote and seat share in the history of Gujarat.

The reason behind the historic defeat of Congress also lies in BJP’s ‘victory mantra’. Congress failed to get the requisite number of seats (18) to claim the post of leader of opposition in the assembly. Top Congress leaders on Thursday refused to speak about the party’s worst performance in Gujarat. Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge, on being asked, briefly said: “What can we say since we have lost. We will sit together and analyse. We will find out why we lost.” What Kharge said, graphically describes the reason behind the pathetic state of India’s oldest political party.

Congress leaders may be at a loss to explain the reasons behind the pathetic performance, but lower level Congress workers know why their candidates lost. They went to the state party office in Ahmedabad on Thursday, when the counting was going in. They pulled down a countdown clock and smashed it into pieces. The countdown clock was installed by Gujarat election in-charge Rajasthan minister Raghu Sharma, on which was written, “the countdown for change has begun. There will be Parivartan (change) on December 8.”

Some Congress workers went out on the streets and loudly said, ‘it is not BJP but Gujarat Congress leaders, who made our party lose’. It was left to Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan to rub salt into their wounds. He said, “Congress was out of race when the election began. Gujarat was going to the polls, but the Congress leadership was busy with Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra. If such a situation continues, Rahul Gandhi will have to take out a Congress Khojo Yatra”.

It is true that the Congress did not fight the Gujarat elections seriously. Rahul Gandhi made a guest appearance only once in Gujarat and addressed two rallies. Priyanka Gandhi did not go to Gujarat for campaigning. The party was fighting the elections under Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot and his confidante Raghu Sharma. The new Congress president Kharge addressed a few rallies during the last leg of elections.

Kharge may be an old hand and experienced Congress leader, but I feel that if anybody expects that Congress will get votes in his name in Gujarat, then it is simply mindless. Congress made this mindless mistake. The party leadership may now come forward with several arguments. Some may say that Rahul Gandhi is not accountable because he did not campaign in Gujarat. Some have already started saying that AAP and Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM ensured the defeat of Congress by dividing the Muslim vote bank.

I feel such arguments are useless. I have gone through the results of Gujarat in detail. Kejriwal’s party won only five seats. There are 36 seats, where if the votes polled by Congress and AAP are added, then the sum is more than what the BJP candidates polled. Out of these there are 13 seats including Khambhalia, Jamjodhpur, Dharmapur, Limbdi, Limbkheda, Byara, where AAP got more votes than the Congress candidates. In other words, AAP lost these seats due to Congress. There are 23 seats, where Congress candidates lost because of AAP. So, AAP leaders can also claim their candidates lost due to Congress. I think this argument is incorrect.

Kejriwal’s claim about IB report indicating AAP’s win in Gujarat, is now being openly mocked by BJP leaders, including party chief J P Nadda and state party chief C R Patil. Nadda is right. Kejriwal had given it in writing that BJP will lose and Gujarat will witness a change. Kejriwal had also made three more predictions. He had predicted that his state party chief Gopal Italia, CM candidate Isudan Gadhavi and Alpesh Katharia will win by big margins. All three of them lost. Gadhvi lost in Khambhalia, Italia lost in Katargam and Katharia lost in Warchha.

For Kejriwal, the only relief is, his party garnered 12.9 per cent votes. Isudan Gadhavi made the claim that, AAP may have won five seats this time, but in 2027, it will repeat BJP’s landslide win.

Kejriwal is right that AAP’s performance in Gujarat was more than expected, but less than was being claimed. He however succeeded in getting his 10-year-old party the status of a national party from the Election Commission.

Kejriwal’s party scores well in those states where the Congress is either weak or is not fighting the election strongly. In Uttarakhand, Congress gave a tough fight to BJP, and most of the AAP candidates forfeited their deposits. In Punjab, Congress leaders fought among themselves, and AAP got a bumper win. The latest example is Himachal Pradesh, where the Congress fought the BJP, scored a majority, and AAP got only 1.1 per cent votes. It failed to win a single seat.

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