The three-way battle for Gujarat between the BJP, Congress and Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party will be settled today as counting of assembly poll votes is underway. The BJP is ahead in 116 seats while the Congress and AAP are leading in 33 and 4 seats respectively, according to the early trends.
The exit polls have claimed that the BJP has won this round hands down – the Congress will get half the seats it won in 2017, and Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party will register its presence, barely.
An aggregate of nine exit polls indicated that the BJP could win 132 of the state’s 182 seats. The Congress-Nationalist Congress Party combine would win 38 seats and AAP – only eight.
While exit polls are not known for their accuracy, the BJP’s six-term track record in Gujarat indicates a stronghold that few parties enjoy in any state.
This time though, AAP has conducted an all-out campaign, buoyed by its sweep in Delhi and more recently, Punjab. The party today beat the BJP in a straight battle in Delhi civic polls, ensuring that its performance in Gujarat will be avidly watched.
The Congress, struggling to find its mojo in Delhi since the anti-corruption campaign of Anna Hazare, managed to hang onto its core voter group among the underprivileged. But it is uncertain whether it will do better in Gujarat, where it is battling factionalism and lack of direction since the death of Ahmed Patel in 2020.
The party has carried out a low-key campaign, for which Rahul Gandhi spared a day from his Bharat Jodo Yatra.
The door-to-door push, claimed by state Congress leaders, was poles apart from the BJP’s supersize, glitzy campaign under the party’s chief strategist Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
With the party’s numbers on the state on a downward spiral since 2002, Mr Shah had set the state leaders a target of 140 – thirteen more than the party actually won that year and its biggest score till date.
PM Modi had led from the front, conducting over 30 rallies since elections were announced in the state. One of these was a 5-hour mega roadshow, which the party claimed was the biggest by any Indian political leader.
AAP, though, was not far behind the BJP in terms of optics, with Mr Kejriwal focusing on the urban middle class and the underprivileged. His move to invite a Dalit family for a meal at his home and flying them to Delhi had made headlines.
While most exit polls have predicted that AAP will not cross the mark of 15, the party’s finding a foothold in the state could mark a change in the binary politics of Gujarat.
Arvind Kejriwal has said that winning 15-20 per cent vote in Gujarat would be a big achievement for a party which celebrated its 10th birthday last month.