New Delhi: BJP president Amit Shah led the charge for BJP’s clean sweep in Gujarat for the second consecutive Lok Sabha election.
In his parliamentary election debut, Shah won from the Gandhinagar seat with a margin of 5,57,014 votes, surpassing his predecessor, L.K. Advani’s victory margin of 4,83,121.
At 9:45 pm, the ruling party’s vote share in Gujarat stood at over 62.2%. In 2014, the final polling percentage for the BJP in the western state was 60.11%.
Congress’ hopes had been raised due to early morning leads in Dahod, Amreli, Navsari and Sabarkantha. However, BJP had managed to gain ground in all of them and surged ahead.
The results also show the largest victory margin by C.R. Patil in Navsari of 6.9 lakh.
BJP is also on way to bag all the four assembly seats in by-polls. So far, the party has already been declared a winner in Jamnagar rural assembly segment with a victory margin of 33,022 votes and Manavadar with 9,759 votes. The BJP candidates are also leading in Dhrangadhra and Unjha.
No one expects any surprises from Gujarat, with BJP expected to win most of the seats in this border state.
Gujarat saw a record turnout of 64.11% when all 26 Lok Sabha constituencies went to polls on April 21, the third phase of the marathon election campaign. As per an average of nine exit polls, BJP was predicted to win 24, with Congress allotted the rest.
In rural areas, agricultural distress, especial around shortage of water and crop insurance have been major issues. But, in urban areas, Modi, nationalism and the government’s response to the Pulwama terror attack have likely swayed most voters to remain with BJP.
BJP’s record of winning seats will be hard to beat. The last time that Congress got more seats than BJP was in 1984, when it won 24 out of 26 seats. BJP’s vote share in 1991 1984 was 18.64%. Thirty years later, the saffron party had got 60.11% of the votes.
In 2014, 63.66% of Gujarat’s electorate cast their votes, which was a steep rise from the voting percentage of 47.9 in 2009. Gujarat’s high turnout was then credited to the Modi wave and the desire to see a Gujarati as India’s prime minister. BJP had won all the 26 seats, wiping away the Congress.
Therefore, last month’s voter turnout breaking even the previously held 1967 record has led to head-scratching. Both BJP and Congress leaders were quick to claim after the voting that the turnout would benefit them.
The highest turnout in Gujarat been in Valsad, a scheduled tribe reserved Lok Sabha seat, at 74.09%. Within Valsad, assembly segment of Dang witnessed a record of 81 % of voters exercising their ballots.
Valsad is considered a bellwether seat, as the party which wins this constituency has usually gone on to form the central government. Congress had won the seat in 2004 and 2009, but BJP’s Dr K C Patel wrested it back in 2014 with a large margin.
All the six tribal dominated constituencies showed high voting turnout, but only the results will show if there was a wave.
Another key seat is Mahesana, which has sent BJP members to the Lok Sabha in the last two elections. The seat is worth watching as this district has been the epicentre of the Patidar reservation agitation since 2015. Patidar leader Hardik Patel joined Congress in March, but could not stand for elections after High Court refused to allow stay for his conviction in a 2015 rioting case. In the 2017 assembly elections, BJP won four and Congress three of the assembly segments in the constituency.
The highest profile among all the seats is that of Gandhinagar, where BJP’s party president Amit Shah replaced its six-time member of parliament LK Advani as candidate to the lower house for the first time.
The district is a bastion of the Patidar community, especially the Kadva faction, to which Patidar leader Hardik Patel belongs. There is an estimated four lakh Kadva Patidars in Mahesana district, with Thakurs close to 3.5 lakh in number. OBCs and Dalits also have a sizeable presence but it is the Patidars who play a crucial role in deciding who wins from the constituency.
As per a detailed Indian Express analysis on the voter turnout, while there was some drop in the urban and the ‘rural-urban’ constituencies, individual assembly segments that had usually voted for BJP had shown a spike.
In Saurashtra-Kutch constituencies where Congress was expecting to do better, there was a decline in voting, but again, assembly segments that had gone with BJP did see better polling compared to those with their rivals.