In the Gujarat elections 2022, the BJP has raced ahead in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state Gujarat, crossing the 140-seat target set by chief strategist Amit Shah within an hour of counting. The party is now in the 150s, setting a spectacular lead. The Congress is down to teens, and AAP looks set to open its single-digit account, an outcome that appears to bear out predictions about Arvind Kejriwal’s party eating into Congress votes. It has played into the hands of the BJP, giving the party a massive edge in seats traditionally dominated by the Congress.
The exit polls claimed that the BJP had won this round hands down – the Congress will get half the seats it won in 2017, and Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party will register its presence barely. An aggregate of nine exit polls indicated that the BJP could win 132 of the state’s 182 seats. The Congress-Nationalist Congress Party combined would win 38 seats and AAP – only eight.
While exit polls are not known for their accuracy, the BJP’s six-term track record in Gujarat indicates a stronghold that few parties enjoy in any state.
This time though, AAP has conducted an all-out campaign, buoyed by its sweep in Delhi and, more recently, Punjab. The party has also beaten the BJP in a straight battle in Delhi civic polls, ensuring that its performance in Gujarat will be avidly watched.
The Congress, struggling to find its mojo in Delhi since the anti-corruption campaign of Anna Hazare, managed to hang onto its core voter group among the underprivileged. In Gujarat, it has been battling factionalism and a lack of direction since the death of Ahmed Patel in 2020.
The party carried out a low-key campaign for which Rahul Gandhi spared a day from his Bharat Jodo Yatra. The door-to-door push, which the state Congress conducted, was poles apart from the BJP’s supersize, a glitzy campaign under the party’s chief strategist Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
With the party’s numbers in the state on a downward spiral since 2002, Mr. Shah had set the state leaders a target of 140 – thirteen more than the party won that year and its biggest score to date.
PM Modi had led from the front, conducting over 30 rallies since elections were announced in the state. One of these was a 5-hour mega roadshow, which the party claimed was the biggest by any Indian political leader.
AAP, though, was not far behind the BJP in optics, with Mr. Kejriwal focusing on the urban middle class and the underprivileged. His move to invite a Dalit family for a meal at his home and fly them to Delhi had made headlines.
While most exit polls have predicted that AAP will not cross the mark of 15, the party’s finding a foothold in the state could mark a change in the binary politics of Gujarat. Arvind Kejriwal has said that winning a 15-20 percent vote in Gujarat would be a significant achievement for a party celebrating its 10th birthday last month.
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