Ahmedabad: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Narendra Modi on Thursday scripted history, winning the Gujarat assembly elections for the fifth time in a row. The results were also a referendum on Modi, who not only led the party to a massive victory but also scored a hat-trick of electoral wins even though it fell two seats short of the 2007 tally. While the BJP won 115 seats, the Congress managed to win 61 seats. Keshubhai Patel's GPP failed to make a mark winning two seats, and the others won four seats.
The Gujarat Chief Minister won from the Maninagar constituency against Congress candidate and IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt's wife Shweta Bhatt by over 86,000 votes.
The BJP strongman expressed his happiness over the win, saying it was time to move forward instead of looking behind. He posted a tweet, saying: "No need of looking behind ...FORWARD...We want infinite energy, infinite courage, infinite patience..."
While the results were a huge relief for the BJP, it came as an equally big setback for the Congress party, which was expecting to ride on anti-incumbency wave and score a win, or at least better its prospects in comparison to the previous elections. However, the party fared as bad as in 2007, as it failed to pose a competition to the Gujarat Chief Minister.
Another Modi rival and former Gujarat chief minister Keshubhai Patel, who had launched his Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) to dent the prospects of the Gujarat Chief Minister, did not succeed in making any mark, as his party merely managed to just open its account.
The Modi charisma was visible throughout the state as the BJP won handsomely in all the regions and also won a majority of the Muslim-dominated constituencies, silencing his critics who have targeted and alleged that his policies are not pro-minority community. In fact the BJP won eight of the 12 Muslim dominated seats while the party's performance in the urban constituencies was even more impressive as the BJP went on to decimate the Congress as well as the GPP.
Even though Modi had given tickets to most of the sitting MLAs, which was being seen as a move by him to curb rebellion, the BJP's excellent show revealed that the Gujarat Chief Minister had played his cards well.
The impressive win by Narendra Modi also sparked fresh debates over him being the Prime Minister candidate of the BJP in the 2014 General Elections. While the party officially refused to make any statement in this regard, there were strong voices from within the party batting for the Gujarat strongman's elevation to New Delhi.
While BJP leader Smriti Irani, speaking to CNN-IBN, said that given a choice, she would vote for Modi as the Prime Minister candidate, BJP spokesperson Tarun Vijay went on to equate Modi with former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, calling him the most suitable candidate for the Prime Minister's job.
"Narendra Modi has proved himself in Gujarat through development mantra. What Vajpayee did in Centre, Modi got through his development in Gujarat. Modi is the best suitable candidate for Prime Ministership," said Tarun Vijay.
However, other senior leaders like Ravi Shankar Prasad and Rajiv Pratap Rudy said that the decision would be taken at an appropriate time, asserting that the decision on the issue should be left with the party.
This came even as key NDA constituent, the JD(U) congratulated Modi on the win that maintained that Bihar Chief Minister was a better Prime Ministerial candidate.
Reacting to the verdict, the Congress said that it accepted the mandate of the people. Gujarat Congress spokesperson Chetan Raval said that the party accepted the mandate by the people of the state, but stopped short of conceding defeat till the full results were in.
In the immediate fallout, Congress chief of the state unit, Arjun Modhwadia, resigned as the president of the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee Taking responsibility for the defeat of the party, Modhwadia posted a tweet: "I accept voters' verdict and take responsibility of the results of my party. I tender my resignation from the post of GPCC president."
This came after Modhwadia lost from the Porbandar seat, from where he was seeking third consecutive term. He was defeated by BJP candidate Babu Bokhiria by a margin of more than 17,000 votes.