Assembly poll results: BJP holds on to Gujarat, Snatch Himachal Pradesh from Congress

Ahmedabad/Shimla, December 18: Leads are in for all of Gujarat’s 182 seats and the BJP is now leading in over 100 seats in a close contest with Congress. If current trends continue, then BJP will form a government in the state again but with a lower margin. The Congress is leading in 76, gaining in 12 seats. A party needs to win 92 seats to form a government in Gujarat. In Himachal Pradesh, the BJP is set to form a government, snatching another state from the Congress. The Sensex tanked over 800 points as it opened on Monday morning, but recovered soon.

The BJP’s big setback in Gujarat at this point seems to be in the Saurashtra region, while it is doing well in south Gujarat and is holding in the north. The party is seeking its fifth consecutive term in the state, having been in power for the last two decades. In 2012, the BJP had won 115 seats and the Congress 61.

Himachal Pradesh has 68 assembly seats and a party needs 35 or more to cross halfway and form a government. The BJP is leading in 40 seats in Himachal, with the Congress ahead in 23. The Congress had won Himachal by the slimmest of margins five years ago.

Analysts have called the Gujarat election a pivotal moment, a contest important not only for the state but also national politics. A win today will give the BJP added momentum in the run-up to the 2019 national election after its sweep of Uttar Pradesh earlier this year.

Winning Gujarat, his home state, is also a matter of prestige for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In a bitterly fought battle versus Rahul Gandhi, the Prime Minister made the election more about Gujarati pride and less about issues like development and economic policies raised by the new Congress president.

Rahul Gandhi also tried to tap into any anti-incumbency sentiment against the BJP, which has been in power in Gujarat for two decades. He forged partnerships with young caste leaders to cash in on the anger of their groups against the ruling party.

Today’s results will reveal whether the Congress could make any dent in the BJP’s traditional vote base of the influential Patel community with its tie-up with 24-year-old Hardik Patel, the face of the Patel or Patidar agitation for reservation in government jobs and colleges.

Rahul Gandhi’s strategy of inducting backward caste leader Alpesh Thakor into the Congress to woo the state’s 30 per cent OBCs will also be tested. His party has also supported Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani, not fielding a candidate against him.

Late on Sunday evening, the Election Commission withdrew its notice to Rahul Gandhi over a television interview aired after campaigning had ended in Gujarat last week. The BJP had alleged that Mr Gandhi’s interview violated election rules.

The Congress had countered that with several complaints of its own, including over PM Modi walking on the road with his inked finger held up after voting in Ahmedabad during the second and last phase of voting in Gujarat on Thursday last. The Congress alleged that PM Modi had conducted a “road show”, violating rules.

The allegations capped an acrimonious campaign that saw the two sides trade angry words, with both PM Modi and Rahul Gandhi accusing the other of abuses. PM Modi’s allegation that Congress leaders including his predecessor Dr Manmohan Singh colluded with Pakistan in an attempt to influence the Gujarat polls has provoked a demand by the opposition party for an apology in parliament.