Chief Minister Narendra Modi [ Images ] on Thursday led the Bharatiya Janata Party [ Images ] to a decisive win in Gujarat for a third time in a row with the party securing majority clinching 103 seats of the 162 results declared for the 182-member assembly and leading in 13 seats.
Arch rival Congress, out of power in the state for the last 22 years, won 53 seats and its candidates are leading in seven more.
Nationalist Congress Party of Sharad Pawar [ Images ], which fought the election in alliance with Congress, has won two seats and Janata Dal-United 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.
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).
It appears to be a near repeat performance by both BJP and Congress who had won 117 and 59 seats respectively in the 2007 polls.
The BJP's hat-trick in retaining power in Gujarat added grist to political mill speculating on Modi becoming the party's PM candidate in the next Lok Sabha elections.
BJP MP Smriti Irani [ Images ] openly declared that Modi is her prime ministerial candidate. However, the party was cautious to comment on the issue. Suspended MP Ram Jethmalani said that the victory has "definitely" strengthened Modi's contention for being the PM candidate.
Chief Spokesperson of the BJP Ravi Shankar Prasad, however, parried questions on the issue saying Modi has always been an important leader in the party.
"We are not a dynastic party, which is led by a Yuavaraj. We function in a pure democratic fashion," he said.
In a significant comment, Modi tweeted that it was time to move "forward".
"No need of looking behind...FORWARD...we want infinite energy, infinite courage, infinite patience..." Modi said on the microblogging site Twitter.
Congress leaders sought to downplay their defeat and also the possible emergence of Modi as a PM candidate. Finance Minister P Chidambaram [ Images ] said Congress is the "clear winner" in Gujarat having "contained" Modi and BJP.
They said that victory in Assembly polls does not guarantee Modi's acceptability in national politics.
Modi won from Maninagar Assembly constituency by over 86,373 votes trouncing Congress rival Shweta Bhatt, wife of suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt.
Modi polled 1,20,470 votes, while Bhatt got 34,097 votes. He had last time won the elections by over 87,000 votes.
Gujarat Congress president Arjun Modhwadia, seeking third consecutive term from Porbandar constituency, was defeated by his BJP rival Babu Bokhiria by a margin of 17,146 votes.
Modhwadia, who had spearheaded a sustained and aggressive campaign against BJP, polled 60,458 votes while Bokhiria secured 77,604 votes. Modhwadia had won 2002 and 2007 polls from this constituency.
Congratulating Modi on the victory, BJP President Nitin Gadkari [ Images ] said his government established itself as a role model in the country and "despite Congress attempt to spread "poison of communalism" in the polls, people of the state expressed confidence in the leadership of Gujarat chief minister.
In Himachal Pradesh [ Images ], riding an anti-incumbency wave and staving off corruption charges against its veteran leader Virbhadra Singh [ Images ], Congress today wrested power from BJP in with a wafer-thin majority of 36 in the 68-member Assembly.
Disproving predictions of a close contest, the state lived to its reputation of voting out the party in power, giving the ruling BJP, which suffered from severe infighting and rebel candidates, only 26 seats.
The Independents, mostly BJP and Congress rebels, won five seats while Himachal Lokhit Party (HLP) floated by BJP dissidents won one seat.
In the last elections in 2007, the BJP had bagged 41 seats and Congress 23.
Virbhadra Singh, 78, 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, against whom BJP had levelled allegations of corruption during his tenure as Steel Minister in Delhi [ Images ] in the campaign, 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 Chief Minister P K 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 [ Images ] 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.
The Congress wrested as many as 22 seats from BJP which could wrench out only seven from Congress. The president of Himachal Lokhit Party (HLP), Maheshwar Singh was lone winner of HLP which had fielded 36 candidates while Communist Party of India [ Images ], Communist Party of India-Marxist, Bahujan Samaj Party, Samajwadi Party and other splinter parties drew a blank.
The Congress fared well in Shimla, Kangra and Kullu districts, winning six out of eight seats in Shimla, ten out of fifteen seats in Kangra and two out of four seats in Kullu district and made a clean sweep in tribal areas winning all three tribal constituencies of Bharmaur, Kinnaur and Lahaul and Spiti.
However, it received a set back in Sirmaur district, losing four out of five seats and also fared badly in Chamba and Solan districts losing three out of five seats in both the districts.
The BJP lost Badsar and Sujanpur seats in Hamirpur, the home district of Dhumal and could win only two out of five seats in Una.
In Bilaspur district, the BJP retained Sri Naina Devi and Jundatta seats but lost the prestigious Bilaspur seat, earlier represented by BJP National general Secretary, J P Nadda. Rajiv Bindal of BJP, who had shifted to Nahan from Solan, defeated sitting member Kush Parmar, wresting the seat from Congress.
Both the BJP and Congress shared five seats each in the second biggest district of Mandi with all three sitting ministers from the district, Gulab Singh, Jairam Thakur and Mohinder Singh and former HPCC president Kaul Singh retaining their seats.
The Congress suffered major setback in Sirmaur district with seven-time MLA and former minister Gangu Ram Musafir and four-time MLA Harshvardhan losing from Pachhad (SC) and Shillai constituencies. BJP MLA from Sri Renukaji (SC) constituency, Hriday Ram, was defeated.