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Millennium Post

Lessons of victory

Lessons of victory
To use sporting terms to describe BJP's narrow victory in the recently concluded Gujarat polls would be like describing it as a gripping five-set triumph in tennis or the match going down to the final over in cricket. Even though crowds turned up in droves to attend Patidar leader Hardik Patel's anti-BJP rallies in the cities of Gujarat, they reposed their faith in the saffron party, which won nearly one-third of their total of 99 seats from eight major cities in the state. Patel had thrown his might behind the Congress in the polls. Though there was a minor dip of two seats in its urban seat tally in comparison to 2012, the BJP managed to retain the support of most of its urban voters. Of the 42 urban seats in Gujarat, the BJP won 36, while six went to the Congress. In 2012, the BJP's urban tally was 38 while the Congress bagged four seats - two in Ahmedabad and one each in Rajkot and Jamnagar city. Poll results show the BJP lost 14 rural seats while the opposition added the same number of seats to its tally. In 2012, the Congress had won 57 seats in the rural areas, while the BJP had bagged 77 seats.

Though the BJP was hoping to reap the rewards on the issue of the completion of the Narmada dam and the resultant positive effects on rural Gujarat, the results showed that voters veered towards the Congress, whom the BJP blamed for delaying the project. The Congress's total swelled to 71 from the 57 it had won five years ago, marking an increase of 14 seats in rural Gujarat, where there are 140 seats. The BJP's tally from the region dwindled from 77 in 2012 to 63, a drop of 14 seats. BJP candidates in Amreli, Gir Somnath, and Morbi districts, with large rural populations, could not win a single seat. As BJP draws up its gameplan for 2019, it would need to find ways of winning back rural voters. Party strategists would need to take valuable lessons from the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government which faced the wrath of rural voters in 2004, despite the much-publicised India shining campaign. A Modi second term in 2019 seemed like a foregone conclusion after the spectacular showing in politically sensitive Uttar Pradesh. Now it appears to be a daunting challenge for the ruling dispensation. Disturbingly for the party, no regional leader has come to the fore. Chief Minister Vijay Rupani himself was not a crowd-puller. Other influential ministers narrowly managed to retain their seats.
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