Chief Minister Narendra Modi scored a hat-trick on Thursday leading the BJP to a decisive win in Gujarat for a third time in a row with the party securing absolute majority in the state.
In Gujarat, Modi, virtually equalled his 2007 tally, as the BJP was poised to bag 116 seats, one less than the 117 it won last time, missing a two-thirds majority in the 182-member house. The Congress was set to get 60 seats, one more than 2007's 59.
Sharad Pawar-led NCP, which fought the election in alliance with Congress, has won two seats and JD(U) one.
Others have bagged three seats, including one by Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) of former Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel.
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.
Political pundits have said that a widely predicted Modi win -- the third time he would be taking the BJP to victory in Gujarat -- could have him playing a larger role in national politics.
The drums rolled outside the BJP office in Ahmedabad and sweets were distributed as Modi, whose persona has dominated the party's politics even at the national level, readied for a third straight term as chief minister, with speculation mounting over whether he would be the BJP's man for prime minister in 2014.
Modi, who has ruled Gujarat since 2001 and used innovations like 3-D technology to reach out, visited his mother to get her blessings and even his arch-rival Keshubhai Patel after the results were out.
"No need of looking behind, FORWARD! We want infinite energy, infinite courage, infinite patience..." he said on Twitter even before the results were clear.
"Aaj ka CM, 2014 ka PM!" shouted his supporters as if on cue.
Triumphant at the important win, BJP leaders fought shy of responding to that most asked question.
"(The Gujarat election) is not about PM candidate but about who wins in Gujarat," BJP leader Balbir Punj said. "Let us savour this moment."
Rajya Sabha MP Smriti Irani said frankly that Modi, 62, would be her candidate for the country's top post on the strength of his governance in Gujarat.
Terming it a spectacular victory, Seshadri Chari of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) echoed that view. "This election is not to elect a PM candidate. We had expected the number to cross 125 but still we are very happy."
For Ahmedabad-based activist Shabnam Hashmi, the "victory was frankly very surprising".
"Social activists who stand by principles of democracies, who believe that Modi has finished all democracies, will continue to fight," Hashmi said.
"You need a Congress to lose like this," she added, angrily pointing to the party's inability to garner votes.
The Congress, which in complete contrast to the BJP had put forward no one leader as its chief ministerial candidate and had in fact consciously steered clear of bringing up the minority polarisation in the state, took solace in the fact that Modi had not won more seats.
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