Why Gujarat’s real battle lies in just 64 seats

TINA EDWIN POORNIMA JOSHI New Delhi/Surat | Updated on January 27, 2018

These were marked by close contests in the 2012 elections

In the end, it will be all about the battles in 64 Assembly constituencies. Numbers reveal that these contests will decide who will emerge victorious in the Gujarat polls next month.

These 64 seats were won with thin margins in the 2012 Assembly elections — the difference between the BJP and the Congress in 62 of these seats ranged between 162 and 9,924 votes. Each of the two parties had won 31 such seats. The Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) won one seat each with thin margins.

So discounting the two seats won by the NCP and the GPP, the BJP polled 40.28 lakh votes in these closely fought 62 seats and the Congress got 39.77 lakh votes.

Cutting it close

In four of these constituencies, the margin of victory was under 1,000 votes. In Anand, the BJP scraped past the Congress with 987 votes more. The Congress won against the BJP with narrower margins in three constituencies — Kankrej (600 votes), Kalol (343 votes) and Sojitra (162 votes).

The 62 seats in question account for more than a third of the Assembly total strength of 182. The BJP won 115 seats in the last Assembly elections and the Congress, 61. A party needs 93 seats for a simple majority. The BJP thus needs to ensure its tally does not fall by more than 22 seats to retain power and the Congress needs to retain its seats and win another 32 to form the next government.

The BJP contested all the 182 seats in the last Assembly elections, while the Congress contested 176. State-wide, the BJP cornered 47.9 per cent of the 2.74 crore valid votes cast, while the Congress got 38.9 per cent. The gap in the vote share of the two national parties was a wide 8.9 per cent.

As the Congress did not contest all the seats, a better comparison would be vote shares of the two parties where both contested. In the 162 seats that the Congress contested, the total valid votes polled were 2.65 crore. Of these, the BJP got 47.8 per cent and the Congress 40.2 per cent, with the difference in vote share narrowing to 7.6 per cent.

The big winners

The vote share of the BJP was also skewed by the landslide victory of a few of its candidates. Then Chief Minister Narendra Modi and his successor Anandiben Patel were among those who swept the polls in their constituencies, Maninagar and Ghatlodia, respectively. Modi polled 1.20 lakh votes — 86,373 votes more than the Congress candidate. Patel got 1.54 lakh votes, which was 1.10 lakh more than the Congress candidate. If the two constituencies are excluded along with the six that the Congress did not contest, the gap in the vote shares of the two parties would narrow further to fall below 7 per cent.

The BJP’s confidence in retaining power comes from the magnitude of its victory last elections and a committed vote bank. The party had a lead of 20,000 or more votes over the Congress in the 55 seats that it won. In comparison, the Congress enjoyed similar leads only in 17 seats.

All that was five years ago and much has changed over the past two years with the emergence of new local leaders such as Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mevani and Alpesh Thakore. Demonetisation and the the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax are also big factors that are expected to influence voting patterns.

Published on November 27, 2017

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