Results of the 2022 Gujarat assembly elections were declared on 8 December and even though Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has finished at the number three position, it has several reasons to celebrate.
By winning five out of 182 seats with a vote share of 12.92 percent, the AAP has made an entry as a formidable third front in the state, and its performance also makes it eligible for the status of a national party as it only needed a vote share of six percent and two seats to become one.
In AAP's victory, however, lie two big questions:
At whose expense has the party made inroads in Gujarat?
What are the key lessons it must learn?
A thorough analysis of the data by the Election Commission of India (ECI) answers these question.
First, Let's Look at The Overall Change in Vote Share in Gujarat
BJP: In 2012, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 115 seats with a vote share of 47.9 percent. In 2017, their seat share dropped to 99 but vote share went up to 50 percent. In 2022, the BJP won a record number of 152 seats and further increased their vote share to 52.5 percent.
Congress: The Congress party in 2012 won 61 seats with a vote share of 38.9 percent. In 2017, the party registered its best performance in decades as its seat count went up to 77 and vote share went up to 42.2 percent. The party, however, was not able to build on its 2017 performance and in 2022, its seat count went down to 16 and the vote share shrunk to 27.3 percent.
AAP: The AAP contested elections for the first time in the state in 2017. It fielded candidates in 29 constituencies and drew a blank in terms of the seat count and won a vote share of 0.1 percent. In 2022, however, the party won five seats with a vote share of 12.9 percent.
With the BJP constantly witnessing an increase in its vote share, the AAP seems to have gained at the expense of the Congress.
A region-wise analysis of data gives enough clarity.
Gujarat is broadly divided into four regions based on the voting pattern in the state — Central Gujarat, North Gujarat, Saurashtra-Kachchh, and South Gujarat.
The Saurashtra-Kachchh region sends 54 legislators to the Gujarat State Assembly. It includes districts such as Rajkot, Morbi, Gir Somnath, Amreli, Junagadh, and Kutch. While the Patidars (Patels) and the Kolis are the dominant communities in the region, Kshatriyas and the OBCs have significant sway on multiple seats.
Congress' 2017 performance, which came on the heels of the Patidar agitation, was attributed to its gains in this region. The party went from winning 15 seats with a vote share of 39 percent in 2012 to 30 seats with a vote share of 45.4 percent in 2017.
The BJP, around the same time went from 44.9 percent to 45.6 percent, even as its seat tally went from 35 seats in 2012 to 22 seats in 2017.
In 2022, however, the Congress was reduced to two seats and a vote share of 26.7 percent in the region. This means it not only lost the gains made in 2017 but also shrunk below its 2012 performance in the region.
The most tangible explanation behind the Congress' rout is the slow death of the Patidar agitation and the entry of the AAP.
The AAP won four seats in Saurashtra-Kachchh, two of which — Visavadar and Jamjodhpur — were won by the Congress in 2017. This could be attributed to the party's high decibel campaign in the region.
In November party supremo Arvind Kejriwal held 11 roadshows in Saurashtra in five days. AAP's CM candidate Isudan Gadhvi also comes from Saurashtra -- Jamkhambhaliya taluka in Devbhumi Dwarka district to be precise.
Net-net, the Congress ceded ground to both BJP and AAP.
2. Central Gujarat
Districts such as Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Kheda, Dahod, and Anand are part of the Central Gujarat sub-region which send 61 legislators to the State Assembly.
In Central Gujarat, the BJP won 37 seats in 2012, while the Congress managed 22. The Congress’ vote share was 38.3 percent while the BJP polled 52.5 percent votes. In 2017, the Congress' vote share went up to 42.7 percent while that of the BJP went down to 48 percent.
In 2022, the Congress' vote share shrunk to 26.7 percent, BJP went back up to 53 percent and the AAP managed to get 10.1 percent of the votes in the region.
While the party's campaign was visibly cold, turncoats became a headache for Congress in this region as several Congress MLAs in Central Gujarat jumped ship to the BJP.
Again, as a result, the Congress ceded ground to both BJP and AAP.
3. North Gujarat
In North Gujarat, which has 90 percent rural seats, BJP's vote share remained nearly unchanged from 2012 to 2017 as the party polled 49.6 percent votes in 2012 and 49.1 percent votes in 2017.
The Congress, during this time, went from 40.2 percent votes in 2012 to 42.7 percent votes in 2017.
In terms of seat share, the BJP lost a seat as it went from 16 seats in 2012 to 15 seats in 2017 and the Congress gained a seat as it went from 16 seats in 2012 to 17 seats in 2017.
North Gujarat includes districts such as Gandhinagar, Banaskantha, Patan, Sabarkantha, Mehsana, and Aravalli. Known for its dairy industry, cooperatives hold significant sway on several seats in the region along with a strong OBC community.
In 2022, the BJP increased its vote share to 53.4 percent, Congress shrunk to 31.5 percent and the AAP polled 7.8 percent votes.
Clearly, much like Central Gujarat and Saurashtra-Kachchh, in North Gujarat too, the Congress ceded ground to both BJP and AAP. The party was unable to build on the anger among the Maldharis -- the cattle rearing community -- over cases against them regarding the stray cattle problem.
4. South Gujarat
The South Gujarat sub-region is where BJP Gujarat chief CR Paatil hails from. Former treasurer of the Congress party Ahmed Patel also came from the Bharuch district which is a part of this region.
Other notable districts in South Gujarat are — Surat, Navsari, Dang, Valsad, and Narmada.
In this region, the BJP's vote share went from 51.6 percent in 2012 to 54.4 percent in 2017. The Congress, on the other hand, went up from 37.4 percent to 36.4 percent.
The BJP's seat tally, during this period, went down to 25 from 28, and the Congress went up to winning 10 seats in 2017 from six in 2012.
In 2022, the BJP's vote share increased to 56.5 percent, while that of the Congress went down to 21.6 percent. The AAP polled 16.5 percent, its highest tally across the state.
Here, again, while both BJP and AAP gained, the Congress vote share shrunk massively.
Dominated by tribal districts, South Gujarat is where the Congress suffered the most. This BJP's focused campaign in the tribal belt coupled with the departure of tribal leaders – Ashvin Kotwal, Jitu Chaudhary, and Mangal Gavit – seemed to have cost the Congress heavily.
Now, Let's Look At Individual Seats Where AAP Made Maximum Gains
The AAP polled more than 30 percent votes in 14 out of 181 seats it contested. These include seats such as Botad, Dediapada, Devgarh Baria, Limkheda, Khambalia, and Dhari.
In the five seats won by the AAP, one was previously held by the Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP), two by Congress, and two by BJP.
Among the candidates the party dethroned are BTP's Mahesh Vasava in Dediapada, Congress turncoat and BJP candidate Harshad Rabadiya in Visavadar, BJP's Keshubhai Hirjibhai in Gariadhar, Congress' Rameshbhai Kalariya in Jamjodhpur, and BJP's Saurabh Patel in Botad.
It is, however, pertinent to note that in 12 out of these 14 seats the vote share of the Congress party shrunk significantly. Congress did not contest the polls in the remaining two seats — Dediapada and Devgarhbaria.
The vote share of the BJP, in all 14 constituencies, remained more or less constant, fluctuating within a range of ± 5 percent.
Interestingly, AAP polled 11.8 percent votes in seats where only Congress lost votes. In seats where only BJP lost votes and not the Congress, it was 3.3 percent. This means Congress' loss was AAP's gain.
So, What Are The Lessons For AAP?
The results clearly indicate that the AAP made significant gains at the expense of Congress -- a party that has traditionally relied on the KHAM (Kshatriya- Harijan- Adivasi- Muslim) formula to win polls in the state.
The KHAM strategy, however, hasn't worked much for the Congress over the last two decades, barring the 2017 elections. Even in that it did benefit from some rise in Patidar support as well, not just KHAM. Riding high on the Patidar, Dalit, and OBC agitations led by Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mevani, and Alpesh Thakor, the Congress saw an opportunity to dethrone the BJP in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state.
The BJP, however, returned to power, albeit with reduced seats in 2017.
A survey by Lokniti and Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) suggested that the party witnessed a marginal drop in support among Patidars and OBCs but increased its vote share among Dalits and Muslims.
Despite the BJP's image as a hardline Hindutva party, the AAP did not make attempts to get the Muslim vote in Gujarat. This is evident from the party's silence on the Bilkis Bano case.
In August, the Gujarat government granted remission to 11 men convicted of gangraping Bano and killing 11 of her family members. Even as the move led to nationwide protests, the AAP maintained a strategic silence on the issue.
The AAP's CM candidate Isudan Gadhvi and state convenor Gopal Italia lost in their respective constituencies. Beyond them, the AAP heavily relied on Kejriwal's image throughout its election campaign. Unlike Punjab, where the party had Bhagwant Mann, in Gujarat not having a popular and experienced local face did not work in AAP's favour.
AAP's gain in Surat in the 2021 municipal polls, where it won 27 out of 120 seats, did not translate into votes in the assembly elections. Based on that, the party didn't just push its resources but also fielded its heavyweights including Italia in the Surat belt. Surprisingly, despite being projected as an urban party, the AAP performed much better in rural seats.
The party polled 9.7 percent votes in urban seats, 13.1 percent votes in semi-urban seats, and 14.6 percent votes in rural areas.