Notwithstanding the high-pitched caste-based campaigning, Gujarat’s industrial towns and urban clusters seem to have preferred voting for the BJP. The ruling party nearly swept the seats in key industrial pockets of south and central Gujarat and municipal corporations, bringing to the fore a clear leaning towards ‘Vibrant Gujarat’.

It secured a 49.1 per cent vote share from the overall voting of 68.41 per cent across two phases.

According to Census 2011, 42.6 per cent of the State’s population lives in urban areas. This became the strength of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, setting the tone of his relentless campaigning. Modi promised not just vikas (development) but also stability and consistency.

He addressed 34 public meetings across the State since November 27. Keeping in mind the significance of the urban voters, he designed his campaigning with 13 rallies in various cities. The BJP won all the 13 seats where Modi held public meetings.

The Congress’s campaign around unemployment, farmer distress, GST (which party President Rahul Gandhi called ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’) troubles and demonetisation failed to strike a connect with the business community.

“People can connect with the development agenda of the Prime Minister and can relate with the routine daily life. The destructive forces can only play a spoilsport for the industry and business,” BJP candidate Harsh Sanghvi had told BusinessLine earlier. Sanghvi won from Surat’s Majura constituency with a staggering margin of over 85,000 votes.

Industrial hubs

South Gujarat districts Navsari, Valsad and Bharuch, where the BJP won 10 seats out of the total 14, have high concentration of industries — primarily SMEs focussed on petrochemicals, chemicals, textiles and plastics. Central Gujarat has biotech and engineering firms, and large multinational companies around Vadodara and Savli. The BJP won eight out of 10 seats in Vadodara district.

A sharp swing towards the BJP was also seen in the municipal corporation area of Surat, where all the nine seats went into the BJP kitty. The regions have historically remained BJP fortresses. According to locals, the BJP’s victory in the region, with a clean sweep in Surat city, is an indication that the voters have clearly rejected the Patidar-driven agitation and mass movement.

“It is more sensible to choose a stable and sensible government than choosing an anarchy,” said Nanji Kanani, a textiles wholesaler in Surat’s Varachha area.

“We were concerned about the future and industrial peace after we saw Patidar youths led by Hardik Patel hitting the streets and blocking roads. This would have caused damage to the businesses. The government had already corrected the GST issues and demonetisation is a past event now, having no relevance.”

The stability in government policies and continuation of the growth momentum played a key role in convincing the traders, industrialists and businessmen to opt for the BJP.

Peace matters

“There is a feeling of safety when we look back at the past 17 years of BJP rule in Gujarat,” said Ajay Sancheti, a grocer in the Khadia-Jamalpur constituency of Ahmedabad.

“All other factors — including taxes, infrastructure and communication — remain largely the same (no matter who rules). What matters the most is peace and safety.” BJP’s sitting MLA Bhushan Bhatt lost to the Congress’s Imran Khedawala in the constituency. But, in the entire Ahmedabad municipal corporation area, BJP retained its strength by securing 12 seats out of 16.

Besides Ahmedabad and Surat, the BJP retained its invincible position in the remaining municipal corporations of Rajkot (2), Vadodara (5), Bhavnagar (2) and Jamnagar (2), sailing through with comfortable margins.

The seats within the corporation limits of Gandhinagar (1) and Junagadh (1) — which are less industrialised in nature — remained out of the reach of the BJP.