BJP on Monday brought Himachal Pradesh in its kitty, and retained Gujarat, but only after fighting one of the state''s toughest electoral battles with the Congress, whose campaign was led by newly-installed Congress President Rahul Gandhi.
With victory in Himachal, BJP is now ruling in 19 states, a great psychological boost for the ruling party at the Centre, but Mr Gandhi''s party, by restricting the rival in Prime Minister Narendra Modi''s home state to below 100 in the 182-member Assembly, has set out alarm bells for the saffron party in the coming elections in Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, and also 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
The results have brought greater credibility to the Congress President''s leadership, who is now being seen by political observers as having come into his own, with the latest performance.
Mr Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah described their victory as a rejection by the people of ''casteist'' politics of Congress and endorsement of the developmental agenda of Modi government, while the Congress said that saffron party tried to raise extraneous issues to divert the people''s attention from the real issues.The grand old party said that it might have ''''lost the front, but had won the war''''.
Political observers ascribed the improved Congress performance to Mr Gandhi''s tireless campaign for three months in the state and its alliances with local Patel, tribal and Dalit outfits.That the going was tough for BJP was evident from all the might Mr Modi and his party had pooled in the western state, which saw the fiercest war of nerves between the two political parties of recent times.
However, the results also show that BJP had managed to contain the resentment of trading community on GST and note ban, as it has won all 12 seats in Surat, the hub of trading community.
Though the Congress tally in Gujarat has improved, its starlwarts in the state like Shaktisinh Gohil, Arjun Modhvadia and Siddharth Patel have lost their seats, but its supporting Dalit and OBC leaders Jignesh Muvani and Alpesh Thakur have won.
The fact that Congress and its allies'' win on around 80 seats, 77 of the party''s own, in the backdrop of its zero score in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in the state, and 61 in the last Assembly polls has come as a great moral booster for the party. This contrasts with the BJP''s loss of 16 seats this time. In the 2012 elections, the saffron party had won 115 seats.
But in Himachal Pradesh, BJP had won two-thirds majority, having bagged 44 seats as against 20 of Congress in the 68-member Assembly, though it met with a major upset in the defeat of its chief ministerial candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal.
BJP has said it would respect the mandate of the people and look for replacement of the loser.
However, outgoing chief minister Virbhadra Singh and his son, Vikramaditya Singh, have been able to retain their seats.
A major surprise in the hill state was sprung by the CPIM when its Central Committee member and prominent trade union leader Rakesh Singha won in Theog assembly constituency, with which the Left party the CPI (M) opened its account in state Assembly after more than a-two decades.
On quite a number of seats which the Congress lost to the BJP in Gujarat, the victory margin of the saffron party was less than a 1,000 and 3,000 votes.
Despite a reduced tally in Gujarat, the BJP''s vote share has gone up. It has secured 49 per cent vote, around two per cent more than in the 2012 elections. The Congress has also increased its vote percentage having secured 41.4 per cent, up from 38.9 per cent of last time.
A significant feature of the election in Gujarat this time was that Mr Modi''s development model was challenged by local leaders, including Hardik Patel of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti, with full support of the Congress.
However, the BJP alleged that the Congress played casteist politics in these elections, and said the vote in the state was an endorsement of Prime Minister Narendra Modi''s development agenda and ''''politics of performance.''''
The Congress party, on the other hand, accused the BJP of trying all ''''tricks'''', including the communal and pseudo nationalistic cards to influence the voters.
Most bitter war of words between the two political parties during the elections was over Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar''s ''''neech''''(mean) remarks against Mr Modi, and the BJP''s allegation of former prime minister Manmohan Singh working in tandem with Pakistan to influence the Gujarat poll outcome, besides Rahul Gandhi''s interview to TV channels which earned him a notice for violation of model code of conduct, and the main opposition party''s counter complaint to the election watchdog against Mr Modi himself violating the model code by moving with crowd of supporters flashing victory sign on the polling day.
The Assembly elections, especially of Gujarat, had attracted worldwide attention as its outcome would have ramifications on the future direction of the country''s politics and electoral of both the parties in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and coming elections in other states.UNI TEAM NAZ RJ 2124
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