Gandhinagar/ Simla Dec 18: Gujarat’s ruling BJP on Monday pledged to retain power as its candidates forged ahead of the main opposition Congress in 98 of the 182 Assembly seats, six more than the half-way mark needed to control the House.
Trends from counting centres had indicated a see-saw battle for about 45 minutes, with the Congress at times inching ahead of the Bharatiya Janata Party. But ultimately the BJP sprinted ahead but not in the emphatic manner as exit polls had predicted.
Trailing initially after the vote count began at 8 a.m., BJP nominees were on the victory lap in 98 constituencies and the Congress in 80. The probable winners in four seats appeared to be smaller parties or independents.
In a surprising development, both Chief Minister Vijay Rupani (Rajkot West) and Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel (Mehsana) were trailing to their Congress opponents.
At one time, overjoyed Congress activists, expecting a victory, began celebrating in Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar. The stock markets too took a beating. But the Congress celebrations were shortlived.
“We are going to form a government in Gujarat. People have voted for us on development issues,” BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain told the media.
Before the BJP crossed the half-way mark, Congress spokesperson Shobha Oza was equally confident.
“People have got sick and tired of the 22 years of BJP misrule in Gujarat. The Gujarat model which the BJP touted so proudly to take power nationally is not clicking in Gujarat… We are sure we will form the government.”
It was the first Assembly election in Gujarat since Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister in 2014. Modi had led the BJP to victory in the election in 2012.
Meanwhile, the BJP was set to take power in Himachal Pradesh as its candidates were on the victory lap in 36 of the 68 Assembly elections on Monday.
Trends from counting centres across the hill state showed the Congress was ahead in 21 constituencies while smaller parties and independents had inched ahead of all others in three seats.
The Bharatiya Janata Party needs 35 seats to control the Himachal Assembly.
Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh (Arki) and his son Vikramaditya Singh (Shimla Rural) were, however, ahead of their BJP rivals.
State BJP chief Satpal Singh Satti trailed to the Congress from Una.
A total of 337 candidates contested the November 9 election. A total of 37,83,580 people voted in the hill state — a record 75.28 per cent polling.
The Congress and the BJP contested in all the 68 constituencies. Most exit polls had predicted the BJP’s return to power with a majority.
The state has alternately elected Congress and BJP since 1985. In 2012, the Congress won 36 seats and the BJP 26. Independents bagged six seats.