Narendra Modi on Thursday performed a hat-trick retaining power for the third time in Gujarat and propelled himself as a strong contender in the Prime Ministerial race in 2014 while Congress ousted BJP from office in Himachal Pradesh. The BJP registered its fifth consecutive victory in Gujarat, third under Modi, when it bagged 115 seats, two less than in the 2007 elections while Congress bagged two more to finish at 61.
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) won two seats while Janata Dal-U one seat. The Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) led by Keshubhai Patel, which was widely predicted to damage the BJP's fortunes, ended with a whimper winning only three seats.
Widely speculated as a strong contender in the BJP riven by squabbles as PM candidate in the next Lok Sabha elections, 62-year-old Modi dedicated his victory to the six crore Gujaratis and those all over the country pining for good governance and development. The Gujarat chief minister, who had consciously refused to apologise or express regret over the post-Godhra violence in the state in 2002 that claimed over 1,000 Muslim lives, said he apologised to the six crore Gujaratis for "any mistake that may have occurred".
Even by mistake, there should be no mistake in the future, he told his supporters in his victory speech but gave no indications of his future political plans. When they shouted, "PM, PM", he said he would be making a visit to Delhi for a day on December 27 and whatever he was doing in Gujarat was the service to Mother India. "Neither will I stop, nor will I get tired as I have to fulfill your dreams", he said.
However, Congress extracted a sweet revenge defeating BJP in the hill state of Himachal Pradesh. The party secured a wafer-thin majority of 36 in a House of 68, one more than the half-way mark of 35. The BJP managed to get only 26 while independents got 5 and Himachal Loktantrik Party one. In the last elections, the BJP got 41 and Congress 23.
The BJP campaign of corruption against Congress veteran Virbhadra Singh failed to have any impact while anti-incumbency appeared to have cost the ruling party dear in Himachal Pradesh. The 78-year-old Virbhadra Singh, a five-time chief minister who was given the reins of the party on the eve of elections and who ran a spirited campaign, won from Shimla (Rural).
Singh is again a strong contender for the chief minister's post, political observers say. He also appears to have emerged unscathed from the CD case filed by the Dhumal government in which charges were framed against him leading to his resignation from the Union Government.
While Himachal chief minister PK Dhumal won from Hamirpur constituency, his four cabinet colleagues Narinder Bragata, Khimi Ram, Krishan Kumar and Romesh Dhawala lost the elections.
However, cabinet ministers Gulab Singh, Mohinder Singh, Jai Ram Thakur, Ravinder Singh Ravi, Sarveen Chowdhary and Ishwar Dass Dhiman retained their seats. Leader of the opposition Vidya Stokes won from Theog while Vijay Singh Mankotia, a bete noir of V B Singh, who buried the hatchet and rejoined Congress on the eve of assembly polls,was defeated from Shahpur.
In Gujarat, Congress suffered a major blow when its state unit chief Arjun Modhwadia lost the Porbandar seat to Babu Bokhiria of BJP by 17,146 votes, while Leader of Opposition Shaktisinh Gohil was defeated by Minister of State for fisheries Purushottam Solanki of the saffron party by 18,554 votes in Bhavnagar rural constituency.
Both were strong contenders for chief ministership in the event of Congress coming to power.
However, Shankar Singh Vaghela, Congress spearhead in the poll campaign and former state Chief Minister, managed to win Kapadvanj seat defeating Kanubhai Dabhi of BJP by a margin of 6597 votes. Gujarat Parivartan Party president Keshubhai Patel scored a facile victory in Visavadar in Saurashtra defeating BJP's Kanubhai Bhalala by over 42,000 votes.
Though BJP registered an emphatic victory, five of its ministers fell by the wayside. Those who lost included Agriculture Minister Dileep Sanghani (Amreli), Health Minister Jaynarayan Vyas (Siddhpur), Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Fakirbhai Vaghela (Vadgam), Minister of State for Forest and Environment Kiritsinh Rana (Limbdi) and Minister of State for Agriculture Kanubhai Bhalala (Visavadar).