Soon after his victory in the Gujarat elections became clear, chief minister Narendra Modi visited BJP dissident and former chief minister Keshubhai Patel, exchanging sweets in images telecast on television.
Modi may have wanted to appear statesmanlike, or simply to look beyond past political tensions in his moment of glory and visit his mentor. But he may also have a reason to be grateful to Patel.
Patel’s Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP), widely seen a platform for BJP dissidents against chief minister Narendra Modi, actually ended up splitting the Opposition vote enough in 14 constituencies to allow BJP candidates to win.
The GPP votes in these 14 constituencies, if added to Congress votes, would have pipped the winning BJP candidate in these seats.
Had the Congress won these —Anand, Bapunagar, Becharaji, Fatepura, Gadhada, Jamnagar South, Junagadh, Kalavad SC, Keshod, Lunawada, Mandvi, Patan, Rajkot Rural and Savarkundla — it could have reduced the BJP tally (115) to 101, significantly less than the 117 it won in 2007.
The Congress would still have fallen well short of unseating Modi, set to be sworn in a fourth time as chief minister, but its own tally could have touched 75 – the most seats it would have son since 1985.
“The real heroes of these elections are my fellow 6 crore Gujarati brothers and sisters,” Modi said, addressing his supporters outside the state party headquarters in Ahmedabad Thursday evening, thanking voters repeatedly.
But apart from the voters — who brought him back to power — Modi may also want to thank Keshubhai Patel. The man who broke with the party to defeat Modi may have helped him repeat his 2007 performance.