New Delhi: Wresting power from the Congress in Himachal Pradesh and retaining it in Gujarat, the BJP on Monday continued its winning 'assembly run' over the Congress since it came to power in the Centre in 2014.
With the two states in BJP's kitty, the score now stands at 19 for the BJP and its allies and five for the Congress. The BJP was poised to win 99 seats in Gujarat -- one less than the crucial 100 mark and seven more than the 92 it needs to form government in the 182-member Assembly -- and sweep Himachal Pradesh with 44 of the 68 seats.
Though the Congress, helmed by its new president Rahul Gandhi, defied most exit polls and other predictions to improve its tally in Gujarat from 61 to a possible 77, power slipped from its grasp.
It also ceded to the BJP in Himachal Pradesh, where it was poised to win just 21 seats. With this, the Congress slide continues and it is now in power in only Punjab and Karnataka of the 18 states, which elect 10 or more Lok Sabha members.
The party is also in power in Meghalaya, Mizoram and Puducherry. The BJP's footprint across the country has become bigger with each election. The list of states where the Congress has lost power since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to office and Amit Shah became BJP president has got longer with the fall of Himachal Pradesh.
Under Modi and Shah, the BJP has ousted the Congress from power in Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand, Assam, Uttarakhand, Goa, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur. In Goa and Manipur, which threw up hung assemblies, it got fewer seats than the Congress but managed to form governments by stitching up alliances with smaller parties and independents.
The only state where the Congress has won during this period is Punjab. Congress-ruled Karnataka goes to the polls early next year. The BJP has lost only in those state polls where it has never been a serious contender for power -- West Bengal, Kerala and Tamil Nadu -- or where its main challenge came from regional parties, like Bihar and Delhi. It is now in power in Bihar as an ally of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
Earlier this year, the saffron party decimated the regional Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party to storm to power in Uttar Pradesh. Himachal Pradesh has continued with its practise of voting the main opposition to power by handing over the reins to the BJP.
"The Congress losing Himachal Pradesh is on expected lines... the state has a history of switching governments alternately, election after election, but still a loss is a loss," said Sanjay Kumar of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS).
Discussing the Gujarat result, his colleague Mahasweta Jani said all deprived sections of society in Gujarat have voted for the Congress -farmers, Scheduled Castes and tribals -- though the urban voter base of BJP continues to remain loyal to the party.
"Interestingly, Patidars in urban areas have also voted for the BJP," Jani said.
Addressing a press conference, BJP president Amit Shah said the poll outcome in favour of the BJP is a victory of performance and development against the politics of dynasty, casteism and appeasement. Asked if there was a close fight with the Congress in Gujarat, he said having a eight percent victory margin over the rival cannot be taken as 'kante ki takkar' (close fight).
"The BJP has been continuously wresting one after another state from the Congress... The Congress has lost its relevance as a national party and now BJP is the only party with national footprint in the country," added BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao.
The Congress, however, said the Gujarat results under Rahul Gandhi's stewardship was a "moral victory". "Congress' Party's campaign under the leadership of #CongressPresidentRahulGandhi ji has led to a moral victory for our party in #Gujarat...," AICC general secretary in-charge for Gujarat Ashok Gehlot tweeted.