New Delhi (Sputnik) — In a closely contested election, Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) has managed to retain its hold in two states — Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. While in Himachal, it was an easy win for the party; Gujarat, the home state of Modi, saw an impressive performance by the opposition Congress party, which bagged 16 seats more than what it had in the outgoing assembly.
Before the elections, the BJP had set a target of a lofty 150 seats, but it has been restricted to an unexpected 99 seats in the 182-seat state assembly — a clear majority, but undeniably a strong indication of its crumbling popularity and a warning signal for the party before the 2019 general elections.
Gujarat election results are a wake up call for the BJP for a simple reason: 2019 elections are not going to be about whether Modi will return to power. It will be about whether he returns to power with a full majority govt or a coalition govt in which seculars will have stake.
— Divya Kumar Soti (@DivyaSoti) December 18, 2017
The BJP was facing multiple challenges in Gujarat including an anti-incumbency of 22 years. There were caste-based rebellions that saw the meteoric rise of anti-BJP youth leaders like Hardik Patel. The demonetization and tax reforms enforced by the BJP-led government at the center also fueled the anti-incumbency. Riding on these factors, the opposition Congress had come stronger than ever before.
Many believe that had not it been for Narendra Modi who pulled BJP out from the jaws of defeat, the election results would have been different.
Meanwhile, the Congress party has said although it is a win for the BJP, it is not a defeat for Congress.
"Our campaign was fair. We were hopeful of forming the government in the state. Today's result is a moral victory for us. PM Modi has tried to garner votes through emotional appeal. BJP's polarization politics failed in Gujarat. It's neither BJP's victory nor Congress's defeat," Ashok Gehlot, who is the Indian National Congress general secretary and in charge of party affairs of Gujarat, told Sputnik.
I think it's clear in Gujarat: the BJP has won but the Congress has not lost. @INCIndia— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) December 18, 2017