Video Editor: Mohd. Irshad Alam
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The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has registered a historic victory in Gujarat, winning an all-time high seat count of 150+ with a vote share of 52.5 precent, as per data by the Election Commission of India (ECI).
This victory will ensure a seventh consecutive term for the saffron party in Gujarat.
So, what explains the BJP's record-breaking performance despite 27 years of anti-incumbency?
Here are six key reasons:
1. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Popularity
PM Modi campaigned heavily for the BJP in the run-up to the polls. The party relied on his larger-than-life image, making this a 'Modi vs the rest' contest.
In several constituencies visited by The Quint, voters claimed that they'd vote for BJP, irrespective of the candidate, as long as PM Modi is associated with the party. Laxman Patel, a shop owner in Ahmedabad said, "Inflation and unemployment are major issues in the state but till kaka (Narendra Modi) is watching over us, it's fine. BJP will return to power."
The prime minister also went on an extensive door-to-door campaign in the state before each phase of polling. He also conducted as massive roadshow in Ahmedabad on 1 December.
2. Post-COVID Damage Control
This is the first election in the state after the COVID-19 outbreak. The mismanagement of the pandemic became a major talking point in Gujarat as reports suggested massive undercounting of deaths by the government.
The BJP, however, sacked former Chief Minister Vijay Rupani in an attempt to pacify the anger of the voters.
COVID-19 pandemic mismanagement did not feature in a list of top 10 key election issues.
As much as 27.9 percent voters said national issues will be the dominant factor in the election while 18 percent said religious polarisation could affect the poll.
3. Congress' Inability To Benefit From the Anti-Incumbency
In 2017, Congress party's tally of 77 seats and a vote share of 41.4 percent was its best performance in over two decades. The party, however, failed to build on the 2017 performance and has shrunk to 20 seats with a vote share of 27.04 percent.
The party has lost ground in its tribal strongholds. The tribal belt of Gujarat has 27 seats and the BJP is leading in all tribal seats.
Gujarat has a tribal population – 89.17 lakh – comprises 15 percent of its total population, as per the 2011 census data.
4. A Drop in First-Time Voters
As per EC data, Gujarat has 16 percent fewer first-time voters in 10 years. The state has seen a 60 percent rise in voters aged 50+.
Since the BJP has been in power in the state for 27 years, this data indicates that more BJP loyalists turned out to vote which might have benefited the saffron party.
5. Focused Campaign in Areas Where BJP Lost Ground in 2017
In 2017, the BJP lost ground in several regions including Morbi, Surendranagar, Somnath, and Amreli where it had held ground in 2012.
This time around, the party ran a focused campaign in these areas and is now leading in all of these seats.
The BJP’s preparations in Saurashtra began at least six months ahead of polls and involved a multi-pronged strategy. The party focused on page committees, identified beneficiaries, and dropped sitting legislators.
6. BJP's Organisational Strength
The saffron party had an edge over its competitors Congress and AAP as far as their organisational strength is concerned. The party successfully contained the discontent amongst its ranks after releasing the first two lists of candidates in November.
Over 42 sitting MLAs had been denied tickets, including five ministers from Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel’s Cabinet as well as Assembly Speaker Nimaben Acharya. The approved candidates included several Congress turncoats.