NEW DELHI: The BJP retained power in Gujarat and snatched it from the Congress in Himachal Pradesh on Monday. On a dramatic day when early projections showed a tight race in Gujarat, the BJP still walked away boasting rights for raising its vote share in a sixth straight assembly election. Its sweeping victory in Himachal however, was tempered by the loss of its Chief Ministerial candidate, PK Dhumal.
The BJP’s victory would best be seen as bittersweet. The party won 99 seats to the Congress’s 77, 16 seats less from its 2012 tally. Both parties managed to increase their vote shares – BJP by 1.25 percent and Congress by 2.47 percent.
But faced with the mobilisation of various disgruntled community groupings such as the Patidars, OBCs and Dalits, the BJP has reason to be happy that it retained power, and that it managed to do so without much scathing.
The Congress however has been vocal that it looks at the Gujarat result positively. This is the Congress’s highest tally in an Assembly election since 1990. OBC leader Alpesh Thakor won on a Congress ticket, as did Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani, who ran as an independent without contest from the Congress.
The Congress however did not have much to celebrate in Himachal Pradesh. The party was routed from power by the BJP, which won 44 of the 68 seats. That is just one seat away from an absolute majority. The Congress won 21 seats.
The Congress saw a small decrease in its vote share, by about one percentage point. But it was blown away by the BJP which soared away with an increase of more than 10.3 percentage points more than it scored in the 2012 election.
The BJP’s vote share of 48.8 percent is the highest for the party in Himachal Pradesh since the party was founded in 1980. It previous highest was the 43.78 percent of the votes it netted in the 2007 Assembly election.
The BJP’s striking victory in the small hill state however was tempered by the loss of its CM candidate PK Dhumal as well as the party state president Satpal Singh Satti. The party was left looking for a leader to take charge as the Chief Minister. A meeting of the BJP’s parliamentary board resulted in the floating of two leaders as frontrunners for the post – Union Minister JP Nadda and former Himachal minister Jai Ram Thakur.
In all, both the Congress and the BJP had positive takeaways out of this counting day. The BJP would like to retain the momentum it has had in elections held after its 2014 Lok Sabha election victory. The Congress on the other hand is likely to see hope in the gains it has made in Gujarat and hope to expand on similar mobilisation in other states under its new party president.