The Congress may have its eyes firmly set on the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’, but it kept its fingers crossed as it waited for Thursday’s counting of votes for the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh assembly elections. However, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), under chief minister Bhupendra Patel, is expecting a cakewalk in Gujarat, as predicted in the exit polls on Tuesday, and also hoping to buck the anti-incumbency trend in Himachal Pradesh.
In Gujarat, the BJP is aiming for a straight seventh term in the state, with hours left for counting of votes for the assembly election held on December 1 and 5. It was a high-stakes three-cornered fight between the BJP, Congress and AAP.
The outcome may determine who captures the main opposition space in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state. For the BJP, the victory will firm up Modi’s bid for a third consecutive term as prime minister in 2024. And for the Congress, its role as the main challenger to the BJP is at stake and Thursday’s results will reveal if the party’s ‘silent campaign’ has cut ice with people, an observer said.
For the AAP, which carried out an aggressive campaign, the Gujarat assembly election is a chance to establish itself as a pan-national party and a challenger to the BJP at the national level also. Upbeat by the victory in the Delhi municipal election, the AAP hopes that the people in Gujarat will accept its welfare politics. The BJP battled anti-incumbency sentiments after 27 years of rule in the state as it faced the recent elections.
Close fight likely in Himachal Pradesh
In Himachal Pradesh, it seems there will be a neck-and-neck contest between the ruling BJP, led by chief minister Jai Ram Thakur, and the Opposition Congress – at least going by exit poll results.
The hill state is set to reveal if its voters have bucked the anti-incumbency trend and re-elected the ruling party – something that has not happened after 1985.
Going by Himachal Pradesh’s “riwaaj”, or tradition, it should be the Congress’ turn to form the next government. But with all but two exit polls predicting an edge for the BJP, pollsters are keenly watching which way the voters have decided in the closely fought contest.
Himachal Pradesh has not returned any incumbent government to power after 1985, a trend the ruling BJP, powered by Modi’s personalised campaign, hopes to break. The BJP slogan this time was “Raj nahin, riwaaj badlega”, meaning the convention will change, not the government.
Exit poll predictions
Gujarat exit polls: Gujarat has 182 seats and the majority mark is set at 92. The Republic-P Marq survey has given the BJP between 128 and 148 seats, the Congress between 30 and 42, and just two to 10 seats to the AAP.
TV9 Bharatvarsh gives the BJP a similar score – 125 to 130 seats and a few more seats to the Congress – 40-50. The AAP is given between three and five.
India Today-Axis My India expects a strong BJP win, with the party picking up between 129 and 151 seats. The Congress, it says, will get between 16 and 30. This survey also gives the AAP the most hope – with nine to 21 seats expected.
News X-Jan Ki Baat also gives the BJP an emphatic win, but the predicted spread is wider than the other polls, except for India Today. The BJP is expected to get between 117 and 140, the Congress 34 to 51 and the AAP six to 13 seats.
ABP News-C Voter follows Republic closely, with 128-140 seats for the BJP, 31-43 for the Congress and three to 11 for the AAP.
Times Now Navbharat ETG gives the BJP 139 seats, the Congress 30 and the AAP 11. News24-Today’s Chanakya gives the BJP a resounding win with 150 seats; the Congress can expect an embarrassing 19 and the AAP just 11.
Himachal Pradesh exit polls: The hill state has 68 members in the assembly. The big story from Himachal Pradesh is the results of the News24 exit poll, which leaves the BJP and Congress tied at 33 seats. Two are expected to fall to other parties or independents, meaning they could emerge as potential kingmakers.
India Today gives the Congress an edge, with 30-40 seats to the BJP’s 24-34.
ABP News goes the other way, giving the BJP 33-41 seats and the Congress 24-32. Republic also leans towards the BJP – 34 to 39 – and gives the Congress 20-33. Times Now gives 34-42 for the ruling party and 24-32 for the Congress.
News X gives the BJP the edge too – 32-40 seats to the Congress’ 27-34.
TV9 Bharatvarsh joins News24 in predicting a hung assembly, with 33 for the BJP and 31 for the Congress. Four seats are expected to go to smaller parties or independents.
With the exception of Times Now, none of these polls gives the AAP even a single seat; Times Now gives Arvind Kejriwal’s outfit a solitary win.
In Gujarat, the election was held in two phases- on December 1 and December 5. The voting percentage this time around was almost four per cent less than what it was in 2017 as the state recorded 64.33 per cent voting against 68.39 per cent in 2017. The low voting percentage has left the BJP worried, and in the second phase the party made frantic efforts to increase the polling figures. While the contest in Gujarat has traditionally been between the BJP and Congress, it was three-cornered this time around with AAP entering the poll arena.
Modi led the BJP poll campaign, addressing around 30 rallies and road shows in the state. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi found time from his Bharat Jodo Yatra to address two rallies in Gujarat. Kejriwal led an aggressive campaign for the AAP, addressing several rallies and holding road shows in the last five months.
In Himachal Pradesh, the voting was held on November 12. Of 55 lakh voters in the state, over 75 per cent exercised their franchise in the election to elect its 68-member assembly and government. A total of 412 candidates are in the fray in this election.
In the 2017 assembly elections, the BJP had won 44 seats and the Congress 21, with one seat going to CPI-M, and two to independent candidates.
The Congress has been confident of its victory, saying the voters will decide on the fundamental issues of price rise, joblessness, the old pension scheme, and other challenges of life and livelihood the state residents have been facing.
With a muted campaign by the AAP and its former state in-charge Satyendar Jain lodged in Tihar jail, the Congress is upbeat that its vote share will only improve, while the BJP hopes to gain from higher women vote percentage than men.
The BJP’s campaign in Himachal saw an exclusive focus on women and youth, with the party rolling out a standalone manifesto for women for the first time in the state’s history.
(With inputs from PTI, ANI)