Election results: Urban voter went for BJP's promise of 'riot-free Gujarat'

BJP President Amit Shah at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi on Monday. Photo: Sanjay K Sharma
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ensured a simple majority by bagging 99 of the 182 seats in the Gujarat Assembly but the Congress and its allies improved their position in the House to over 80 seats.

Despite a jump in its vote share from 47.85 per cent to 49.1 per cent, the BJP saw its tally decline from 115 seats and it was a far cry from the 150-seat target set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah. The Congress, too, saw its vote share improve, from 38.93 per cent in 2012 to 41.4 per cent now.

The Patidar factor has played out in the Assembly polls but not in a uniform manner. The agrarian Patidar vote helped the Congress to gain a foothold in the Kutch-Saurashtra region by winning 30 of 54 seats. “It is a lesson for the BJP. It has to modify its agenda for rapid industrialisation and focus on balanced growth in Gujarat,” said Vidyut Joshi, a senior political commentator. 

The BJP did well in south Gujarat and unexpectedly won 15 of the 16 seats in Surat. The Congress had invested a lot of time and energy in campaigning in the region in an effort to cash in on the strong discontent of Patidars in India’s diamond capital. Textile traders in this city were also up in arms against the BJP after demonetisation and the goods and services tax. 

Patidar leader Hardik Patel expressed surprise at BJP candidate Kishor Kanani winning against Dhirubhai Gajera of the Congress by a fair margin in the Varachha seat in Surat. The area had seen widespread protests and incidents of arson during the Patidar agitation in 2015. 

The Patel-led Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) had declared its aim of defeating the BJP in at least four seats in Surat, Varachha, Katargam, Kamrej and Surat North. Political observers said the merchant Patidar community was likely to be pro-incumbent. “A merchant Patidar would never want to change the government. He is a completely different entity from the farmer Patidar,” Joshi said. 

The contest was closer in north and central Gujarat with the BJP winning around 22 seats and the Congress 16 seats.  Central Gujarat includes urban areas like Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara, Rajkot, Jamnagar and Bhavnagar. 

Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and BJP state president Jitu Vaghani contested and won from Rajkot and Bhavnagar, respectively, setting the tone for the rest of the constituencies. Six out of eight seats in Rajkot went to the BJP, as did eight out of 10 seats in Vadodara. In Ahmedabad, the tally was in favour of the BJP at 15 seats, while the Congress improved its position to six seats. 

The urban electorate voted for the “riot-free Gujarat” promise made by the BJP. Also, they did not wish several city infrastructure projects to slow. 

In the north, the Congress managed to eat into the BJP’s votes, in seats like Radhanpur and Patan (in Sabarkantha). In Vadgam, independent candidates like Jignesh Mevani did well. The Congress improved its tally to 24, while the BJP lost a few seats. 

The BJP in Gujarat can also rejoice that its local leadership has been able to retain its appeal with the electorate, unlike the Congress, which has seen the majority of its top local party leadership being decimated. 

Prominent among the winners for the BJP was Rupani, who retained his Rajkot (West) seat, defeating Indranil Rajyaguru of the Congress by over 53,000  votes. Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel, too, managed to tide over the Patidar challenge in his home turf Mehsana by defeating his Congress rival Jivabhai Patel by 7,000 votes. 

The third big winner for the BJP was Vaghani from Bhavnagar (West). He bagged 83,701 votes to defeat Congress candidate Dilipsinh Gohil, who secured 56,516 votes.

Senior BJP ministers such as Revenue and Education minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama managed a mere 300 votes in Dholka, while home minister Pradeepsinh Jadeja won by margin of 62,380 votes. Saurabh Patel, former energy minister in the Anandiben Patel government, won by 1,221 votes from Botad.

Despite performing better than the previous elections in 2012, the Congress had fewer prominent winners. Among them were Paresh Dhanani, co-president of the Gujarat Congress, who was seen as a contender for chief minister. Dhanani won from Amreli constituency by over 12,000 votes against his BJP rival Bavku Undhad.

Both the BJP and Congress faced upsets as well. The BJP saw Health Minister Shankar Chaudhary losing from Vav constituency by 6,600 votes and Ramanlal Vora, Assembly speaker, from Dasada by 3,728 votes. 

Senior BJP leader Jaynarayan Vyas lost from Sidhpur alongside other party faces such as Dilip Sanghani, Narayan Lallu Patel, and former home minister Rajni Patel.

The BJP also could not cash in on the four out of six Congress leaders who had switched allegiance to the party. Tejashree Patel lost from Viramgam, Mansinh Chauhan from Balasinor, Ramsinh Parmar from Thasra and Raghavji Patel from Jamnagar (rural).

The Congress, too, lost some of its heavyweights, including Shaktisinh Gohil and Arjun Modhwadia. Other senior Congress leaders who lost were Siddharth Patel from Dabhoi and Tushar Chaudhary, son of former Congress chief minister Amarsinh Chaudhary, from Mahuva (ST). 

Tribal strongman Chhotubhai Vasava retained his Jhagadia seat by 48,948 votes over his nearest BJP rival Ravjibhai Vasava. In the tribal districts of Panchmahal and Dahod, BJP managed to score over Congress in most of the seats.   Nationalist Congress Party MLA Kandhal Jadeja retained his Kutiyana seat by a margin of 24,000 votes over his BJP rival.

At a time when the Congress chose to play on “soft Hindutva”, the Muslim vote declined by almost 4 per cent. 

Independent candidates were another major factor this time. In the Dholka seat, Cabinet minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama won by a wafer-thin margin of 300 votes over his Congress rival. There were eight independent candidates in the fray. 

Interestingly, none of the above (NOTA) ended up stealing 1.8 per cent votes, with 551,605 electors opting for the same.

The BJP was set to announce chief ministers for Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh at the conclusion of its parliamentary board meeting, which commenced on Monday evening.

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