BJP retains Guj, snatches Himachal from Cong, predict exit polls

The Asian Age.

India, All India

Gujarat Assembly polls are being seen as a litmus test for both Modi and Rahul Gandhi who was recently elevated to the post of Congress president.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress chief Rahul Gandhi (Photo: PTI)

New Delhi: Almost all exit polls on Thursday predicted that the BJP is heading for a comfortable victory in both Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. Though the Congress will increase its vote share, it will not translate into seats according to the polls, which were released soon after voting ended in 93 seats under the second and final phase of election in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state.

While three exit polls predicted that in Gujarat the BJP will get more than 115 seats it bagged in 2012, the rest said that the ruling party will comfortably cross the magic mark of 92 and score over 100 in the 182-member Assembly.

In the 2012 Assembly polls in Gujarat, the BJP had won 115 seats, the Congress 61 and others six. However, during the Rajya Sabha elections in August this year, the Congress could manage to hold on to only 42-44 MLAs while the rest switched sides to support the BJP or quit the party.

Despite the setback, the Congress had mounted a tough challenge to the BJP by stitching alliances with Hardik Patel-led Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti, dalit activist Jignesh Mevani and OBC leader Alpesh Thakore.  The BJP relied on the Prime Minister as it chief campaigner.

Gujarat Assembly polls are being seen as a litmus test for both Mr Modi and Rahul Gandhi who was recently elevated to the post of Congress president. Both the leaders did extensive campaigning in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. Going by the exit poll results, it seems the Congress wasn’t able to counter the Prime Minister’s charisma as well as turn the crowds at Mr Gandhi’s rallies into votes.

It was the same story in Himachal Pradesh. Today’s Chanakya predicted 55 seats for the BJP and 13 for the Congress, while CSDS-ABP projected BJP-38 and Congress-29.

Before the elections, Himachal Pradesh had a Congress government and the state’s voters have a reputation of never returning the same regime twice. The state also witnessed a high voting percentage which traditionally hints at anti-incumbency wave.

In 2012, the Congress came to power in Himachal Pradesh when it won 36 of the 68 seats, while the BJP got 26 and others 6.

Touted as the curtain raiser for 2019 general elections, campaigning for Assembly polls to the two states were a bitter battle of words with the attacks often getting personal and, at times, outlandish. A public spat between Mr Modi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over the latter attending a dinner at Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar’s house, along with Pakistani official, has been the low point of the campaign in Gujarat.

Gujarat recorded an estimated 68.70 per cent voter turnout in the second phase of polling, the Election Commission said. The figure is likely to go up as details were still being worked out at the time of going to the press.

Around 2.22 crore voters were eligible to exercise their franchise to choose their representatives from among 851 candidates in the fray on Thursday. The results for both Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh elections will be declared on December 18.