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Anger at Modi costs BJP 7 seats

May 14, 2004 22:28 IST

Of all the states where the Bharatiya Janata Party suffered setbacks leading to the National Democratic Alliance's rout, the stunning loss of seven seats in Gujarat may be the most bitter for the BJP, which had exuded confidence that it had no threat from a 'demoralised, directionless and infighting plagued' Congress party.

But it was the BJP that saw its candidates cut a sorry figure at the end of the day against a resurgent Congress, winning 14 seats against the 21 it won in 1999. The Congress party won the other 12 seats.

The Hindutva storm triggered by the February 27, 2002 Godhra train carnage and bolstered by the September 30, 2002 Akshardham temple attack that saw the BJP rout the Congress in the December 2002 assembly election was absent in the Lok Sabha election.

The loss of seven seats, including three in the BJP's political laboratory Saurashtra, is an indication that a strong undercurrent of anti-BJP sentiment is brewing, in the backdrop of the farmers' agitation over the agriculture power tariff hike, rising prices of essential commodities and internal differences among the party's state leaders.

The Congress victory was evenly spread as it snatched Jamnagar, Junagadh and Amreli -- all in Saurashtra -- from the BJP; two tribal-dominated seats in south Gujarat, Mandvi and Valsad; Kheda and Anand in central Gujarat dominated by the Other Backward Castes; and three seats in north Gujarat.

The Congress could have won Vadodara, Dahod and Porbandar, but lost them by a whisker. In Dahod, where the Congress lost by just 361 votes, seven-time MP Somji Damor, who defected to another party after not being given a ticket, played spoilsport by bagging 45,000 votes.

In Vadodara, Congress candidate Satyajit Gaekwad would have trounced the BJP's Jayaben Thakker had an Independent candidate Tapan Dasgupta not walked away with nearly 9,000 votes. Gaekwad lost by 6,603 votes. It was a definite erosion in Thakker's popularity as she had won the 1999 election by 92,649 votes.

In Jamnagar, where Sonia Gandhi began her roadshows, sitting Congress MLA Vikram Madam showed the exit door to five-time MP Chandresh Patel, though he won by just over 5,000 votes.

In Mandvi, the Congress gamble to field sitting MLA Tushar Chaudhary instead of seven-time MP Chhitu Gamit resulted in stupendous success. Chaudhary, the son of Leader of Opposition Amarsinh Chaudhary won by 173,382 votes over the BJP's Mansinh Patel.

In Valsad, sitting MLA Kishen Patel defeated three-time MP Manibhai Chaudhary.

Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani's Bharat Uday Yatra, which he started from Porbandar district, did not pay the expected electoral dividends. In Porbandar, the BJP's victory margin was a meagre 5,703 votes compared to 101,360 in 1999.

Advani then traversed Junagadh constituency, adjacent to Porbandar; and the outcome here was even more dismal as Union Minister for Tourism and four-time MP Bhavnaben Chikhaliya lost to Congress first-timer Jashu Barad by over 40,000 votes.

Similar was the case in Banaskantha in north Gujarat from where Advani's yatra entered Rajasthan. Congress candidate Harisinh Chavda emerged from political hibernation to trounce sitting BJP MP Haribhai Chaudhary.

Another indication of the absence of Hindutva wave was the voting pattern of tribals in Chota Udepur, Mandvi, Valsad, Banaskantha and those of the OBCs in Kheda and Anand.

The BJP had vanquished the Congress in the 2002 assembly election when communal violence spread to the Adivasi areas, especially in the eastern Panchamahal district.

While retaining its Kheda seat, the Congress rode on a strong anti-incumbency factor in Anand where the BJP denied a ticket to co-operative bank scam-tainted MP Deepak Sathi. Bharatsinh Solanki -- the sitting MLA from Borsad and son of former external affairs minister Madhavsinh Solanki -- comfortably trounced the BJP's Jayprakash Patel by 61,000 votes.

In the December 2002 assembly election, the Congress had lost 13 seats in central and eastern region.

The BJP's dismal performance also comes against the backdrop of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's unrelenting tirade against Sonia Gandhi, whom he frequently referred to as 'begum sahiba,' attacking her Italian credentials.

Modi was censured by the BJP's central leadership for his 'unsavoury' remarks against Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul. Unlike his caustic attack on 'Miyan Musharraf' in the run-up to the assembly election which won him thundering applause at rallies, there were seemingly few takers for Modi's theory that 'Sonia is a burden on the Congress and nation.'

Farmers too openly expressed their anger against Modi and demanded his ouster. Bharatiya Kisan Sangh leaders said that farmers have expressed their disenchantment in the election and someone who can heed their woes must replace Modi.

The Gujarat chief minister had taken out a Kesariya rally in north Gujarat, but the Congress walked away with three out of the four seats there.

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