Hat-trick for Modi, Congress ousts BJP in HP
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was today well on the road to performing a hat-trick raising the prospects of becoming BJP's prime ministerial candidate while Congress ousted the saffron party from power in Himachal Pradesh.
The BJP was leading in 95 seats after winning 23 of the 182 seats in Gujarat while Congress was ahead in 50 after winning eight. Former Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel's GPP on which the Congress hoped to defeat Modi fared very badly. The NCP and JDU were leading in one seat each.
The BJP looked set to marginally improve on its tally of 117 in the 2007 elections but may fall short of a two-third majority figure of 122. The Congress had won 59 in the last elections.
However, the BJP was set for a defeat in Himachal Pradesh, a state which has stuck to its habit of voting out an incumbent government. The Congress, which put up a spirited campaign under former Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, is all set to return to power in the hill state.
The party has already won 29 seats and was leading in seven seats in the 68-member Assembly. BJP has won 16 seats and was leading in 10. 'Others' led in two having won four. Congress had won 23 seats and BJP 41 in the 2007 polls.
The BJP's hat-trick in retaining power in Gujarat added grist to political mill speculating on Modi becoming the party's PM candidate in the next Lok Sabha elections.
BJP MP Smriti Irani openly declared that Modi is her Prime Ministerial candidate. However, the party was cautious to comment on the issue. Suspended MP Ram Jethmalani said that the victore has "definitely" strengthened Modi's contention for being the PM candidate.
Chief Spokesperson of BJP Ravi Shankar Prasad, however, parried questions on the issue saying Modi has always been an important leader in the party.
"We are not a dynastic party, which is led by a Yuavaraj. We function in a pure democratic fashion," he said.
In a significant comment, Modi tweeted that it was time to move "forward". "No need of looking behind...FORWARD...we want infinite energy, infinite courage, infinite patience..." Modi said on the microblogging site Twitter.
Congress leaders sought to downplay their defeat and also the possible emergence of Modi as a PM candidate. Finance Minister P Chidambaram said Congress is the "clear winner" in Gujarat having "contained" Modi and BJP.
They said that victory in Assembly polls does not guarantee Modi's acceptability in national politics. Modi won from Maninagar Assembly constituency by over 86,373 votes trouncing Congress rival Shweta Bhatt, wife of suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt.
Modi polled 1,20,470 votes, while Bhatt got 34,097 votes. He had last time won the elections by over 87,000 votes. Gujarat Congress president Arjun Modhwadia, seeking third consecutive term from Porbandar constituency, was defeated by his BJP rival Babu Bokhiria by a margin of 17,146 votes.
Modhwadia, who had spearheaded a sustained and aggressive campaign against BJP, polled 60,458 votes while Bokhiria secured 77,604 votes. Modhwadia had won 2002 and 2007 polls from this constituency.
Congratulating Modi on the victory, BJP President Nitin Gadkari said his government established itself as a role model in the country and "despite Congress attempt to spread "poison of communalism" in the polls, people of the state expressed confidence in the leadership of Gujarat Chief Minister.
In Himachal Pradesh, as trends showed reverses for BJP, Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal conceded defeat and said that his party will now analyse what went wrong for them in the keenly fought elections.
"We will have to find out where we were found to be lacking. We were confident because in the last five years there was development. Every household in the state had benefited from our schemes. If an ample number of our candidates could not win, we will analyse and assess the reasons," Dhumal said.
Dhumal himself won from the Hamirpur defeating his nearest Congress rival Narinder Thakur by a margin of over 9,500 votes. His rival and Congress veteran Virbhadra Singh said that he had put in his "best efforts" in the polls and it was for Sonia Gandhi to decide the party's Chief Minister.
"I had been given the brief to bring the party back to power and for that I had put in my best efforts. It is for our national leader Sonia Gandhi to decide who will become the Chief Minister," Singh said.
Singh won from Shimla(Rural) constituency defeating his BJP rival Ishwar Rohal by 19,033 votes. Singh, who is a strong contender for the post of Chief Minister, is a sitting member of Lok Sabha.
He had resigned from the Union Cabinet after a special Court framed charges against him in a graft a case but the Congress high command appointed him state party president to lead the party in the assembly polls.