Allan Quatermain, the protagonist of H. Rider Haggard’s 1885 novel titled King Solomon’s Mines, was armed with a boon that Africa — the land he loved so intensely — would never let him die on its soil.
December 8, 2022 will forever be etched as a red letter-day in the annals of the BJP. The party has not lost an election in Gujarat since 1995. On Thursday, it not only bettered its own tally of 127 Assembly seats under then Chief Minister Modi in the 2002 elections held in the backdrop of the Godhra riots, it also shattered the Gujarat Assembly’s all-time record of 149 seats that the Congress achieved under Madhavsinh Solanki 37 years ago.
BJP’s 156 out of 182 seats have Modi written all over them. The prime minister is perhaps the most hard-working politician in the country right now. He conducted more than 30 rallies in Gujarat, including a 50-km roadshow in Ahmedabad right in the middle of the first phase voting. Modi is the credit card that the BJP banks on all the time.
Contrast this with the Congress, which has dropped a whopping 61 seats, and a picture of the two parties’ trajectory becomes so very clear. The Congress has managed to win just 17 seats compared to 77 in 2017, and even the victory in Himachal Pradesh may not be a good enough balm to ease the pain of such a thrashing.
Then there’s the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) with five seats. The AAP says it has achieved its aims in Gujarat. The AAP has emerged as runners-up on as many as 36 Assembly seats in Gujarat, which indicates how badly it has bled the Congress.
The BJP has received around 53% vote share, the Congress around 27%, and the AAP around 13%. While the AAP top brass congratulates itself on “becoming India’s ninth national party”, it cannot hide from the fact that its chief ministerial face Isudan Gadhvi and Gujarat in-charge Gopal Italia were beaten convincingly.
Every BJP leader in Gujarat, from party chief CR Paatil to Bhupendra Patel, who will be sworn in as chief minister for the second time on Monday, called the verdict “Modi’s victory”. “People of Gujarat have reposed their faith in Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP leadership once again. If the masses of Gujarat have elected the BJP then we will have to live up to the people’s expectations,” said Bhupendra Patel, who also won big from Ghatlodia.
AAP IS CONGRESS’ NEMESIS
While the Congress was not expected to replicate its creditable performance of the last assembly elections in 2017, the trends showed the party’s electoral prospects in the state had been hurt by the AAP more than feared. The party’s silent campaign seems to have failed to cut ice with the electorate.
The party focused mostly on door-to-door canvassing for votes as its leader Rahul Gandhi, who had aggressively campaigned in the 2017 elections, chose to stay away to focus on the Bharat Jodo Yatra — so did other senior leaders of the party.
On the other hand, it remains to be seen if the AAP’s performance in these elections would help its leader Arvind Kejriwal cement his place as a key challenger to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in parliamentary elections due in 2024.
For the AAP, which carried out a high-decibel campaign, the elections in Gujarat WERE also an opportunity to establish itself as a pan-national party. While the contest in Gujarat has traditionally been between the BJP and Congress, it turned three-cornered this time with the entry of the AAP.
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