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Lok Sabha elections 2019: BJP shakes off Patidar stir in Gujarat, farm crisis to take over home turf

According to trends on the Election Commission’s website, the BJP was also leading in the Assembly seats of Unjha, Jamnagar Rural, Manavadar and Dhrangadhra, for which bypolls were held along with the Lok Sabha elections.

lok sabha elections Updated: May 24, 2019 00:45 IST
Hiral Dave
Hiral Dave
LS polls,Lok Sabha,Lok Sabha elections
Supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) celebrate the party's victory in the Lok Sabha elections, at party headquarters, in Gandhinagar, Gujarat. (Siddharaj Solanki / Hindustan Times)

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept Gujarat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state, for the second time in a row as the party maintained healthy leads against the Congress in all the 26 Lok Sabha constituencies.

The BJP bettered its performance in terms of vote share, which increased to 62.2% — its highest ever in the state — from the 63.6it had secured in 2014 when Modi, then chief minister, was contesting the Lok Sabha polls for the first time. But the Congress’s vote share has slipped from the 32.59% it secured in 2014 to 32.1% .

According to trends on the Election Commission’s website, the BJP was also leading in the Assembly seats of Unjha, Jamnagar Rural, Manavadar and Dhrangadhra, for which bypolls were held along with the Lok Sabha elections. In the initial rounds of counting, the BJP was trailing behind the Congress in Amreli, Anand and Dahod Lok Sabha seats. However, as counting progressed, the BJP overtook the grand old party to retain its dominance in the western state.

Also read: Decoding the role BJP chief Amit Shah played in PM Modi’s epic victory

BJP chief Amit Shah was leading against Congress’s CJ Chavda by over 5.5 lakh votes. After a lacklustre performance in the 2017 assembly elections, in which the BJP’s tally came down to 99 from 115 in the 182-member Assembly, the Lok Sabha trends have sealed the party’s strongholds in the state.

The Congress, which had given its best performance since 1995 by winning 77 seats in the Assembly elections, was again found to be struggling as Lok Sabha results came in. It seems the BJP is set to regain in rural areas, especially Saurashtra and north Gujarat , where it lost in 2015 local body and Assembly elections, because of rural distress and the Patidar agitation seeking the status of other backward class (OBC) for the community.

The BJP had launched a two-fold strategy to overcome obstacles. Welfare schemes, including the Centre’s flagship programme Pradhan Mantri Kisan Sanman Yojana-providing Rs 6,000 annually in 3 months, were implemented to woo farmers. The party also strengthened its OBC leadership to combat Patidars. Veteran OBC leaders in the Congress such as Kunvarji Bawalia and Jawahar Chavda and young Patidar faces like Aasha Patel crossed over to the BJP, providing a much-needed boost to the saffron party.

Between the 2017 Assembly elections and the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress lost six MLAs to the BJP. During election rallies in the state, Prime Minister Modi highlighted the Indian Air Force’s strikes in Pakistan’s Balakot, asking voters to take care of the “son of the soil” by giving him all 26 seats in the state, an appeal that seems to have struck a chord with voters, said Deepak Rajani, a political analyst. In contrast, the Congress’s experiment of putting young leadership at the helm, soon after the assembly elections, might call for reconsideration.

Also read: Rahul Gandhi concedes defeat in Amethi, congratulates Smriti Irani

Senior leader Bharatsinh Solanki was replaced by the younger Amit Chavda as part of the Congress’s national strategy to give chances to youth leaders, something which did not go down well within the party.

The state leadership’s inability to prevent defection and factionalism pushed the Congress into complete disarray, while party president Rahul Gandhi did not visit the state even once for over a year before the campaigning for the general electios began. Paresh Dhanani, leader of opposition in the Gujarat Assembly, was trailing in Amreli seat as were former ministers in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, including Bharatsinh Solanki and Tushar Chaudhary. Youth leaders, including eight MLAs that were in the fray, also failed to make any impact.

“Two factors — Gujarati Asmita [state pride ] and nationalism — have worked for the BJP. On the other hand, the Congress has suffered due to poor organization. The Congress failed to take forward the momentum from 2017 assembly elections,’’ said Deepak Rajani, a political analyst. Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani hailed BJP’s wins as a “victory of the people”.

“In Gujarat, clearly the voters have chosen a strong and stable leadership. The voters have rejected false propaganda of the Congress,” said Rupani. The Congress said it would do introspect into why it had fared poorly. “We respect people’s mandate. The results are different from what we expected...’’ said Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi.

First Published: May 24, 2019 00:44 IST

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