For Gujarat, this was an election in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi severed links as a candidate and stayed as a star campaigner, and yet the BJP has come back winning all 26 seats to power its ‘panota putra’ (darling son), as Modi is known here, again for the country’s top job.
BJP has not only won all seats again, but has also bettered its vote share in the state which has gone up from 59 per cent in 2014 to 60-plus, while the Congress remains around 32 per cent.
The BJP which was also unsure of capturing all 26 seats, saw hope two days before polling day on April 21, when Modi did his last address in Patan and invoked the Balakot strike as a victory over terrorism. A BJP insider had then told The Indian Express, “Three seats, on which we were not sure of victory, were converted after this address”. He did not name the seats.
This suggests that the Congress, which decided to go it alone in Gujarat, has not broken any new ground since 2014. Gujarat was among the few states where the Balakot airstrike appeared to not be on top of the minds of voters, at least in the agrarian dominant region of Saurashtra where the Congress had gained substantially during the 2017 Assembly elections.
This also suggests that although people vote differently in state and national elections, the 2017 show put up by the Congress is already on the wane. The BJP has won all the four Assembly seats which also went to polls with the Lok Sabha, and where it had fielded all the Congress turncoats. Thus the BJP will end up with four new MLAs, taking its number in the Assembly to 104.
Similarly, the MLAs, including Paresh Dhanani, the party’s Leader of Opposition in the Gujarat Assembly, were among those who were fielded for the Lok Sabha by the Congress, and lost.
Also, Patidar quota agitation leader Hardik Patel joining the Congress has not worked in its favour. The sway he wielded outside of the Congress, dipped when he joined it. While there was discontent against the BJP, and its policies, the Congress could not translate these into votes. Even after Modi’s exit from Gujarat, the party seems to be mistaking the anti-BJP votes — in 2015 in the local body elections at the peak of the Patidar agitation, and in 2017 in the Assembly elections, as its own.