BJP surges ahead in Gujarat, Himachal polls

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party surged ahead of its main challenger Congress party in the race for capturing power in his home state of Gujarat and is poised to regain power in Himachal Pradesh today as vote count is progressing in elections to the legislative assemblies in the two states.

Out of the total of 182 seats in Gujarat assembly, where BJP has been in power for the last 22 years uninterrupted, BJP is projected as it is leading in over 100 seats, our New Delhi Correspondent reports.

If this trend continues, the saffron party will form government in the state again but with a lower tally of seats than five years ago. Congress is shown leading in 74 seats, a gain of 13 seats over what it had in the previous polls in 2012.

Under India’s first-past-the-post system, a party needs to win 92 seats to form government in Gujarat.

Votes are also being counted in Himachal Pradesh where BJP has nosed well ahead of Congress which is ruling the tiny state.

The total strength of the Himachal assembly is 68. A party needs 35 or more to cross the halfway mark and form government. If BJP wins today, it will take away another state from Congress. Congress had snatched power from BJP in Himachal by the slimmest of margins five years ago.

The battle for Gujarat in recent election has been a prestige issue for Modi because this is the first time that poll was held in the state since he quit as chief minister of the state and shifted to Delhi to be India’s PM in May 2014.

For Congress President Rahul Gandhi, the Gujarat poll outcome is a fresh litmus test of his leadership as he not only led the party’s campaign from the front in the state but also became the head of the party just two days ago taking over from his mother Sonia Gandhi. In this election, Congress had sensed an outside chance at pulling off an upset victory.

The outcome of Gujarat poll is seen by analysts a crucial moment in Indian politics as it may have implications for national politics. A win today will give BJP added momentum in the run-up to the 2019 national election after its sweep of Uttar Pradesh earlier this year.

Today’s results will reveal whether the Congress could make any dent in BJP’s traditional vote base of the influential Patel community with its tie-up with 24-year-old Hardik Patel, the face of the Patel or Patidar agitation for seeking preferential access to government jobs and educational institutions.

Congress also tried a social engineering by bringing together different backward caste groups in Gujarat elections by aligning with three young Turks like Hardik, inducting backward caste member Alpesh Thakor into its fold to and backing Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani by not putting up a candidate against him.