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BJP wins after fierce Cong fight

Ahmedabad/ new delhi: The BJP fought off a strong challenge from the Rahul Gandhi-led Congress to win the Gujarat Assembly polls for the sixth straight time on Monday. However, the euphoria in the BJP camp was tempered by the lower than expected margin of victory— it took 99 seats in the 182-member assembly, down from the 115 it won in 2012, and far lower than the 150-plus seats it had hoped for. However, the party's vote share rose by a little over 1 percentage point to 49.1 per cent compared to the 2012 Assembly polls.
The Congress won 77 seats, up by 16, at the end of counting of votes in the Gujarat polls on Monday night, which was marked by acrimonious exchanges and rhetoric during the high octane campaign. The Congress also improved its vote share, which touched 41.4 per cent, a 2 percentage point increase. The Congress was also helped by young Patidar and Dalit leaders Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakor and Jignesh Mewani in its campaign against the BJP.
Chief Minister Vijay Rupani retained his Rajkot West seat, defeating Indranil Rajyaguru of Congress. Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel won the Mehsana seat against Congress candidate Jivabhai Patel. Mehsana was the epicentre of the Patidar reservation agitation.
As the victory became clear, party workers gathered in the streets and headquarters, distributing sweets and bursting firecrackers. The BJP's dip this time was touted by the Congress as a reflection of Gandhi's efforts during the campaign, when he appeared to have improved his reputation as a politician.
The BJP said what matters is the victory. "Jo jeeta wohi Sikandar (whoever wins is the king)," said Union minister Smriti Irani, when asked if the Congress gave her party a tough fight.
The December 9 and 14 elections took place in the backdrop of GST and demonetisation, which the opposition had claimed would inflict a huge dent in Modi's popularity. The BJP has won every election in Gujarat since 1995.
Gujarat is a prestigious trophy for the BJP, given that both Modi and BJP President Amit Shah hail from the state. The two leaders personally led a high-pitched campaign to counter Gandhi, who grew in influence with well chosen homilies, one- liners and clever barbs to target the BJP on issues such as GST, corruption and development.
The elections became a virtual trailer for the next Lok Sabha elections, which should be held before May 2019.
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