The BJP retained six assembly seats in Gujarat on Tuesday but lost three seats to the Congress in the first electoral setback for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s successor in the state who had campaigned vigorously in all the constituencies that went to the polls.
The bypolls were seen as a key test both for the NDA government at the Centre and Anandiben Patel, the first female chief minister of the western state considered a BJP bastion. The results are a blow for the BJP as it prepares for next month’s assembly elections in Haryana and Maharashtra, both under Congress rule.
The surprising comeback of the Congress is also a shot in the arm for the beleaguered party after its humiliating defeat in the general election just four months ago.
The BJP kept Modi’s former assembly constituency of Maninagar in Ahmedabad and also managed to hang on to the Limkheda, Matar, Anand, Tankara and Talaja seats. But the Congress picked up the Mangrol, Khambhalia and Deesa assembly seats earlier held by the BJP.
The BJP also won the Vadodara parliamentary seat that Modi quit when he chose Varanasi as his Lok Sabha constituency.
The results are particularly disappointing for the chief minister who, during campaigning, asked voters to ensure the BJP’s victory as a birthday gift for Narendra Modi.
“The results are not positive but they do not suggest that the Modi wave is waning, because by-elections are fought on local issues,” said Gujarat BJP general secretary IK Jadeja.
Some party insiders, though, blamed poor candidate selection and overconfidence for the losses.
“The BJP leaders had taken the voters for granted but the voters have delivered a rude shock to them,” said Congress spokesperson Shaktisinh Gohil.