Gujarat Election Results: BJP wins by smallest margin in 22 years; did farmers' distress hurt party in its traditional bastion?

Prachi Salve and Alison Saldanha

For the sixth time in a row, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has won Assembly elections in Gujarat, this time by a margin of 22 seats, down from 54 seats from five years ago, or a 59 percent drop. The BJP won 99 out of 182 seats, the least it has since it first came to power in the state in 1995 with 121 seats, showed an IndiaSpend analysis of election data of the last 22 years.

Though the Congress is now in the Opposition for another term, the party has made significant gains, garnering 77 seats — the most it has in 22 years since it won 45 seats in 1995, an analysis of election data showed.

On 15 December, 2017, BJP president Amit Shah predicted that the BJP would win 150 seats by 11 am on the day of the results. At 5.22 pm on Monday, the BJP had won 84 seats and was leading in 15 more, election data showed.

Seats and voteshare over the years

Since the BJP first came to power in Gujarat in 1995, state elections have mainly been a two-party battle that it fights with the Congress. The former has consistently won a majority of the seats and bagged most of the voteshare.

The BJP's voteshare has grown from 42.5 percent in 1995 to 49.1 percent in 2017, after it recorded a significant jump of 49.8 percent in the 2002 elections.

The Congress voteshare, meanwhile, has steadily grown from 32.8 percent in 1995 to 41.4 percent in 2017. This is its highest growth in over two decades and it ate into the vote shares of Independent candidates and other regional parties. These small parties have claimed a vote share of 5-6 percent since 2002.

Making its first appearance in an Assembly election in Gujarat, the 'None Of The Above' (NOTA) option received over half a million votes (551,580) or 1.8 percent of the 30.4 million votes polled, according to election data.

Rural Gujarat: Where BJP lost, Congress gained

The BJP has retained its hold over the urban parts of the state such as Ahmedabad, Surat, and Rajkot, an analysis of constituency-level election data showed.

Away from these trade and commerce centres, in the rural areas of Saurashtra and Kutch, however, votes swung in favour of the Congress.

The BJP has won 55 of 73 (75.3 percent) urban seats; the Congress won the remaining 18. But in predominantly rural areas, Congress won 62 out of 109 seats (56.8 percent) while BJP won 43, according to a report in The Times of India.

In Saurashtra and Kutch, the Congress won 30 of 54 seats (55 percent), while the BJP won the remaining 23, an analysis of regional-level election data showed.

In northern Gujarat, a traditional bastion of the BJP, the Congress won 17 out of 32 seats (53 percent), while in southern Gujarat, around the urban areas of Rajkot, Bhavnagar, and Porbandar, BJP won 25 of 35 seats (71 percent).

In central Gujarat, in areas around Ahmedabad, and in the urban centre of Vadodara, the incumbent party won 37 out of 61 seats (60.6 percent).

Constituency-wise break-up of Gujarat results

Constituency-wise break-up of Gujarat results

The primary reason for the Congress' resurgence in rural Gujarat appears to be linked to growing rural distress. The added impact of demonetisation and the newly introduced Goods and Services Tax (GST) that affected all traders, big and small, in these parts could have added to the swing in favour of the Congress.

As 2017 began, news from India's farms appeared good, but during the course of the year, bountiful harvests drove farmers to despair and calls for loan waivers rose from many states including Gujarat, as IndiaSpend reported on 15 June, 2017.

Following consecutive droughts in 2014 and 2015, a good monsoon in 2016 reversed two years of rural economic decline — India's agricultural growth, after contracting to 0.2 percent in 2014-15, grew to 4.1 percent in 2016-17, as reported by IndiaSpend on 8 June, 2017.

But the flood of produce in the agricultural markets of many states, including Gujarat, coincided with an influx of imports and prices plunged.

The crisis was exacerbated with a below-par minimum statutory price for cash crops — Rs 800 for a kg of cotton as compared with Rs 1,300 given by the United Progressive Alliance government, according to a report in The Hindu from 23 November, 2017.

Further, damage to crops from flooding in the state, and the non-payment of insurance — despite payment of premiums — alienated farmers, reported Business Standard on 26 November, 2017.

And, months after the introduction of the GST on 1 July, 2017, many small and medium trade units in the state were forced to shut, while many more claimed heavy losses, according to a report in Economic and Political Weekly on 9 December, 2017.

For example, spice traders in Unjha, the hometown of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and one of the biggest spice markets in Asia, were reportedly furious as they were yet to receive refunds on the GST imposed on exports. They claimed the resulting "cash crunch" had curtailed their volume of business and exports by nearly 50 percent, the report said.

Unjha, a long-time bastion of the BJP since 1995, swung to the Congress in the 2017 elections by a margin of 81,797 votes, an IndiaSpend analysis of election data showed.

Salve is an analyst and Saldanha is an assistant editor with IndiaSpend. With data inputs by Angel Kandathil Mohan and Sanjukta Nair, interns at IndiaSpend.

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Updated Date: Dec 19, 2017 14:32:11 IST

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