In the Gujarat Assembly elections, results of which were declared on Thursday, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which emerged number two on 35 seats — nine reserved for Scheduled Tribes (STs) and two for Scheduled Castes (SCs) — also made inroads in several other ST reserved seats, splitting the vote dynamics.
In majority of those seats, the AAP has affected Congress’s vote share and also that of BJP. In Saurashtra-Kutch, the Congress lost 28 of the 30 seats it won in 2017, 15 of which are seats where the combined figure of Congress and AAP votes was higher than the total number of votes polled by the winning candidates of the BJP. In three other seats — Keshod, Dwarka and Rajkot East — retained by the BJP, the cumulative count of Congress and AAP votes was higher than the respective tallies of the winning candidates.
The split of votes hurt Congress the most in Rapar seat in Kutch and Dasada seat in Surendranagar. In Rapar, Congress’s Bachubhai Aarethiya, husband of sitting Congress MLA Santok Aarethiya, lost to BJP’s Virendrasinh Jadeja by 577 votes even as AAP’s Amba Patel polled 2,434 votes, the third highest. In Dasada, sitting Congress MLA Naushad Solanki lost to BJP’s PK Parmar by 2,179 votes with AAP’s Arvind Solanki, garnering 10,324 votes and coming third.
In Surendranagar, Junagadh, Amreli and Morbi—the districts where Congress had won big in 2017, lost Dasada, Limbdi and Chotila seats after the AAP bagged a sizeable chunk of votes. In Amreli, it lost Dhari and Savarkundla seats, Tankara and Wankaner in Morbi, Dhoraji and Jasdan in Rajkot, Khambhalia in Devbhumi Dwarka, Kalavad in Jamnagar, Mangrol in Junagadh Gadhada in Botad, and Talala in Gir Somnath.
In Rajkot East, BJP’s Uday Kangad defeated Congress’ Indranil Rajyaguru, who returned from the AAP, by 28,635 votes. However, the victory margin was lower than 35,486 votes polled by Rahul Bhuva of the AAP. In Keshod, Devabhai Malam, a minister in the outgoing Bhupendra Patel government, retained his seat by defeating Congress’s Hira Jotva by 4,208 votes even as AAP’s Ramji Chudasama polled 24,497 votes.
Among these 18 seats where the combined votes of Congress and AAP was higher than that of the BJP, Congress candidates finished second in 10 seats while AAP emerged third. In the remaining eight seats, AAP candidates, including its chief ministerial face Isudan Gadvhi, finished second, while Congress nominees finished third.
Rutvik Makwana, outgoing Congress MLA from Chotila and working president of the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC), said that the AAP swayed traditional supporters of Congress by promising freebies.
“Dalits and the poor who traditionally vote for Congress were attracted by AAP’s guarantees of free electricity in particular. In my Assembly constituency, the AAP reached out to 35,000 families and distributed their guarantee cards promising free electricity, monthly cash allowances, etc… A large number of people fell for these promises and voted for the AAP,” said Makwana, who lost to Shamji Chauhan of the BJP by 27,715 votes, told The Indian Express.
“Also, BJP leaders persuaded maldharis who were unhappy with the government to vote for the AAP if they didn’t want to vote for BJP, which hurt the Congress,” he added.
While Chauhan polled 71,039 votes, Makwana got 43,324 votes and finished third in the race after Chauhan and AAP’s Raju Karapada who got 45,397 votes.
However, 47-year-old Makwana said the larger challenge for Congress was to look for issues that resonate with people. “The AAP may not be able to maintain its momentum… having failed to form a government, its guarantees will fall flat. But the larger issue is how to figure out issues that find resonance among the electorate. At present, nothing seems to work… It appears that people don’t want an Opposition,” said the youth face of Congress.
Seats where AAP ate into vote share of Congress
2017 – Congress 50% (won)
2022 Congress 18% (lost), AAP 32%
2017 – Congress 47.8% (won)
2022 – Congress 11.5% (lost), AAP 19%
2017 – Congress 51.70% (won)
2022 – Congress 33% (lost), AAP 16 %
2017 – Congress 55 % (won)
2022 – Congress 27% (lost), AAP 27%
2017 – Congress 40 % (won)
2022 – Congress 30 % (lost), AAP 26%
2017 – Congress 45 % (won)
2022 – Congress 18% (lost), AAP 26%
2017 – Congress 56 % (won)
2022 – Congress 13% (lost), AAP 29%
2017 – Congress 49 % (won)
2022 – Congress 22% (lost), AAP 17%
2017 – Congress 59 % (won)
2022 – Congress 18% (lost), AAP 33%
2017 – Congress 50 % (won)
2022 – Congress 23% (lost), AAP 31%
2017 – Congress 50 % (won)
2022 – Congress 27% (lost), AAP 20%
2017 – Congress 30 % (lost)
2022 – Congress 15% (lost), AAP 23%
2017 – Congress 43 % (lost)
2022 – Congress 2.41% (lost), AAP 41%