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Political Bureau

The recent assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh have thrown up a verdict in favor of the BJP.

In Gujarat, the BJP is riding back to power for a consecutive sixth time.

In the 182 member Gujarat assembly, the incumbent BJP won 99 seats after yielding many sitting seats to the opposition Congress.

Prestige Fight in Gujarat

Gujarat witnessed a prestige fight. The new Congress president Rahul Gandhi led an extensive campaign by tapping into the alleged disaffection to the ruling party among traders and farmers over issues like GST and note ban.

The aim was to wrest Gujarat from BJP and give a jolt to PM Narendra Modi’s successful political journey. In the home state of Modi where he was the CM for 13 years, the BJP has been in power since 1995.

The resurgent Congress made a common cause with a few caste leaders such as Hardik Patel of Patidar community and young Dalit leader Jignesh Mawani. The former is agitating for reservation for Patels in government service and educational sector.

The Gujarat verdict was a signal to Modi and team that it can no longer take Gujarat for granted. Congress improved its numbers from 61 to 77. In terms of vote share, BJP got 49.1 percent and Congress received 41.4 percent respectively.

Vijay Rupwani’s Profile

The new chief minister of Gujarat Vijay Rupani (61) started his political life as a student leader with Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad. He also took part in the Navnirman movement and anti-corruption movement of late Jay Prakash Narayan. He is a graduate and holds a law degree.

During the Emergency, Rupani was imprisoned and was the youngest MISA prisoner in Bhavnagar jail. He rose in the ranks of BJP starting as General Secretary of BJP’s Rajkot city to state president in a span of three decades.

Rupani’s public service began in 1987 as a corporator with Rajkot Municipal Corporation where he became the Mayor in 1996.

From 2006 to 2012 Rupani served as a Rajya Sabha member which is upper house of Indian Parliament. Rupani’s first term as CM started in August 2016 when he replaced then CM Anandiben Patel.

Profile of Himachal CM

In the Himachal Pradesh assembly election, out of the 68 seats, BJP won 44 seats and dislodged Congress from power. Anti-incumbency sentiments against the Congress government led by Virbhadra Singh helped the BJP.

Congress lost 15 sitting seats and the tally was down to 21 from the previous 36. In terms of vote share, BJP had 49 percent and Congress won 42 percent share.

The new CM, Ram Thakur is a five times MLA and a former minister. The 52-year-old leader represents Seraj constituency in Mandi district. His political innings started as a student leader of ABVP. He led the state BJP from 2006 to 2009 and also served as minister for Rural Development in PK Dhumal's government in 2007. The CM holds an MA degree Punjab University.

What does the verdict mean?

Though the slim victory margin in Gujarat may worry BJP the election results have enhanced the aura of BJP as a winner and expanded its national electoral footprint.

A jubilant Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed this thought at a party meeting in Delhi. “Support for BJP shows the nation is ready for reform agenda and every citizen wants India transformed,” he said.

BJP has reasons to be proud of. From eight states in 2014, BJP and allies expanded to 19 states as against the 3 states ruled by Congress.

In the upcoming assembly elections, Congress has a tough battle against BJP in Karnataka, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Barring Karnataka, where Congress is the ruling party, Rahul Gandhi has the challenge of proving his mettle and to dent BJP’s hold in these states if not ousting them.

The Congress is already showing its intent not to give BJP an easy walk over and the campaign in Gujarat was a proof of it.