Caretaker Chief Minister Narendra Modi thanked the people of Gujarat for reelecting the Bharatiya Janata Party, while the Congress party Gujarat unit chief, Shankarsinh Vaghela, said he accepted the people's verdict and owned up responsibility for the party's rout in the state.
Addressing his first press conference at the BJP headquarters, Deendayal Bhavan, in central Ahmedabad, Modi said the BJP's election was an indication of Gujarat swabhiman [self respect] and gaurav [pride]. "Today, the Gujaratis have shown what Gujarat can do," he said.
He admitted that the victory was beyond even his expectation and said, "Kamal ne kamaal kar diya [The lotus (the BJP's symbol) carried out a miracle]."
He said his party would follow its manifesto in the coming days and work towards development and peace, while ensuring brotherhood among the people.
He asked the Congress, led by Vaghela, who till a few years ago was a member of the BJP and a colleague of Modi, to play a constructive role so that the state could progress as a whole. He pointed out that there are no full stops in politics.
Modi said he had begun his electoral campaign on October 31, the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, and from the Sardar's hometown in Karamsad [very close to Anand, between Ahmedabad and Vadodara], and said it was the Sardar's blessing that had given his party such a great victory.
When asked whether he had any message for the Muslims of the state, he declared that his message of peace and brotherhood was for the state's entire 50 million people and that he would not divide the people on the basis of religion.
Modi also refuted the claim that his party had won merely because there was a Hindutva wave in the state. "What wave existed is for the political and media analysts to say; I believe that our victory is because Gujarat's 50 million people wanted us back for all our good work."
Taking a dig at the media, he �thanked' them for their extensive coverage of Gujarat over the past few months. "We are a small state, and but for your coverage, the entire world would never have heard of us. I thank you for that!" he said, his sarcasm not going unnoticed at his reference to the media's huge coverage of the riots that followed Gujarat.
He also took a dig at the Congress, saying even they had to recognise the importance of Sardar Patel.
Vaghela appeared chastised, but took his loss philosophically. He said his day began like always, with a visit to his temple. But he admitted that the stunning loss was a complete shock.
He blamed the Hindutva factor. "Here we asked people whether they wanted Hindutva or food, the people have replied Hindutva," he said.
Vaghela pointed out that Gujarat is ideologically a right-wing state, and thus an issue like Hindutva, played up after the Godhra massacre when 59 Hindus were burnt, trapped inside a train coach, had a huge impact upon the people.
"When there is such a wave, all other considerations fall by the wayside; be it caste, development, jobs, lack of food, or anything else," he said. "The Hindutva wave this time was much more than 1992 when Babri Masjid was demolished. This was something unimaginable. It completely outsmarted the caste card. Nothing worked."
Vaghela claimed that people were �provoked' to vote in tribal areas.
The Congress leader also blamed the massive propaganda carried out by organisations affiliated with the BJP, such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which has a massive network in the villages of Gujarat, on the Godhra issue.
Asked whether the Congress strategy of peddling the 'soft' Hindutva line had backfired, he replied, "If we had not done that, we would not have got even the 50 seats that we finally did!"
But he insisted the Congress had not asked well-known religious leaders such as Chote Morari Bapu to campaign for the party. Instead they had �personally approached' the Congress. "Murari Bapu was upset with the BJP for promising to make a Ram temple at Ayodhya and then backtracking," he claimed.
In the end, said Vaghela, it was clear that to the common man all that mattered was the Godhra incident, and which was played up effectively by the BJP and the VHP over the past six months. "Even the tribals voted for the BJP, saying they were Hindus first," he pointed out.