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India: BJP wins Gujarat, loses Himachal in state elections

December 9, 2022

The ruling party won with a landslide in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state of Gujarat. But in Himachal Pradesh, the party suffered a loss with the opposition Congress winning power.

BJP supporters celebrate the party's victory in Gandhinagar, Gujarat.
The BJP has been in power in Gujarat since 1995.Image: Ajit Solanki/AA/picture alliance

India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won with a landslide in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state Gujarat on Thursday, solidifying its 27-year rule.

In the northern mountainous state of Himachal Pradesh, the BJP suffered a loss to the opposition Congress party.

Huge victory in Gujarat 

Modi thanked voters in Gujarat, where he had frequently campaigned, as Indian political parties start gearing up for national elections in 2024.  

The BJP won 156 seats out of Gujarat's 182-seat legislature, its best performance ever. The Congress won 17 seats, its lowest tally to date.

"The youth of India have tested and judged our work, they want development-oriented politics, not the politics of caste, family and corruption," Modi told party workers in Gujarat.

Bhupendra Patel, who took over as Gujarat's Chief Minister from Vijay Rupani a year ago, will be sworn in for the same position on December 12.

Modi himself was state premier in Gujarat for 12 years, before becoming the South Asian nation's prime minister in 2014.

 "Voters see their welfare in Modi's political security. This kind of result in Gujarat no doubt smoothens BJP's path to 2024 [national elections]," political analyst Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay told the AFP news agency.

He said the victory was notable since a bridge collapse in the state killing 135 had been blamed on corruption. 

While the state is economically developed, it lags behind on other indicators such as infant and maternal mortality rates. The state had seen some of the worst communal riots during Modi's rule in 2002, where about 1,000 died, most of them Muslims.

BJP loses power in Himachal

In Himachal Pradesh, the Congress won 40 out of 68 available seats.

The state, with the BJP's Jai Ram Thakur as the premier, will soon have a change of leadership as the Congress is expected to announce their chief ministerial candidate soon.

Voters in Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh.
Himachal Pradesh held its elections on November 12.Image: Ashwini Bhatia/AP/picture alliance

The mountainous state has never voted an incumbent government to power. Analysts said a focused campaign by the Congress, and a poor performance by Thakur led to the BJP's loss.

The Congress led a campaign where local leaders focused on their areas, whereas the BJP banked on Modi's popularity, according to television channel NDTV's appraisal.

The BJP also lost Delhi city elections to the Aam Admi Party last week. 

As of now, the BJP controls 15 of 28 states in India and is the dominant political force in just one union territory out of eight.

In India's federal system, states have their own government and much broader autonomy, whereas the central government has much more control over union territories regardless of whether it wins local elections. 

tg/msh (dpa, AFP, AP, Reuters)