BJP has ultimately won in Gujarat, even though with a reduced number of seats. It may still claim to have won handsomely because it got a higher percentage of popular votes . In 2012, BJP had won 115 seats, which stood reduced to 99 this year, while the percentage of popular votes cast in its favor went up from 47.9 to 49.1. The number of seats came down because Congress along with its alliance partner Bharatiya Tribal Party and an Independent candidate got over 42 percent, which was three percent more than what Congress had secured last time.
Another reason for the small gap between the seats of BJP and Congress+ was the fact that while BJP candidates won from big margins, Congress candidates won with low margins. If the average victory margin of BJP candidates is calculated, it tallies to twenty-six thousand, while the average victory margin of Congress candidates merely comes to thirteen thousand. This basic difference is the reason for BJP getting only 19 seats more from Congress+, even though it acquired around seven percent more votes.
A seven percent gap is not a small gap. In the last election, the gap between the votes polled by BJP and Congress was eight percent and the gap between the number of seats won by BJP and Congress was 54. BJP had bagged 115 seats, while Congress could get only 61. There is another way of comparison of the result with the last election in Gujarat and that comparison shows a grim picture of BJP. In the last Lok Sabha election, BJP had got 61 percent of total votes polled and if we compare the forty-nine percent of votes polled by the ruling party this time, we find that its percentage has come down by a whopping twelve percent.
In the last Lok Sabha election, BJP had won all the Lok Sabha seats from Gujarat and it was leading in 165 out of 182 seats. On the other hand, Congress was leading only in 17 seats. Congress has cause to rejoice because it has raised its tally from 17 to 77 in three and half years since the last Lok Sabha election. Apart from its own 77 MLAs, it has to its credit the seats acquired by Bharatiya Tribal Party and another Independent, Jignesh Mewani, to add to its total seat count.
BJP led in 165 Assembly constituencies in Gujarat during the last Lok Sabha election in 2014. On the basis of that performance, BJP President Amit Shah had fixed a target of 150 seats in the election. However, this target was far from realistic, mere wishful thinking on thepart of BJP. Even though it was aware of the stiff challenge posed by Congress, led by Rahul Gandhi, it chose to put forth an ambitious target. BJP had been facing problems in both urban as well as rural areas. In rural areas, there was discontent of farmers, who were hit hard by the failures of monsoon last year and were not getting a fair price for their produce this year.
In the urban sector, trading communities were angry because of demonetization and GST. While the merit in the system of GST was beneficial, the business class of Gujrat was battling problems of rough transitions and multiplicity of confusing tax rates. Those who were not net savvy had their own problems. Some were complaining that the taxes were too high. It seemed that this jolt was to be anticipated by BJP. Modi realized it and his government reduced the GST rates of many items; the frequency of filing GST returns was also reduced.
The decisions pertaining to GST in the run up to the election paid rich dividend to BJP and it almost swept the urban constituencies. There are 55 urban Assembly Constituencies in Gujarat and BJP won in 46, while it had to bite the dust in rural constituencies, where it could get only 53 out of 127. In Surat, it won in 15 out of 16 constituencies. In urban areas the resentment of people was maximum, but it could not affect the fortunes of BJP because of the timely decision taken by Central Government on the front of GST.
Another factor contributing to the landslide victory of BJP in urban areas might be the equity culture of urban Gujarat. According to SEBI, Gujarat had 54.41 lakh equity investors. Almost all of them lived in urban Gujarat. A large amount of investment in share markets had been made by them. It is being speculated that despite their disappointment, this pool voted for the BJP, perhaps thinking that the defeat of BJP would crash share markets, causing them to face losses. Hence, they might have voted for BJP despite their resentment against the Central government.
BJP has certainly won this time, but it must see the writing on the wall. The 2019 elections may not be a cake walk after all.
-Contributed by Kriti Prasad
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