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19 Dec 2017

Yes, he can - BJP wins Gujarat & Himachal but...

TT, New Delhi: The winter elections have gifted the BJP victories in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh - and demolished what turned out to be multiple myths that were acquiring a cult-like status across the country.

Belying exit polls that we are near-unanimous in predicting a comfortable victory in Gujarat, the count threw up a dizzying roller-coaster ride on Monday morning.

By dusk, it was clear that the party lording it over the Prime Minister's home state for over two decades would not cross three digits. Compared to the BJP's extrapolated Assembly tally in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the score of 99 seats on Monday is a deep dive. In 2014, the BJP had won in 166 of the 182 Assembly segments in Gujarat.

A telling moment came in the evening when it was announced that the BJP lost the constituency that includes Prime Minister Narendra Modi's hometown Vadnagar.

The big takeaways from the state polls:

• The BJP is not invincible, not even on the Modi-Amit Shah home turf. But the BJP is no spent force either - its killer instinct in adversity was on full display.

• Modi's barnstorming campaign may have saved the BJP the blushes, but he need not be the one-man juggernaut he is often projected as.

• The nation caught a ringside glimpse of an extraordinary battle in which Modi pitted adrenaline-pumping emotive factors against Rahul Gandhi's seemingly tedious bread-and-butter issues. Serious politics is back. The challenge before Rahul now is to stay the course and that before Modi is to choose between a divisive agenda and a substantive one.

• Rahul succeeded in attracting a crop of young leaders - a segment the BJP had assiduously cultivated in 2014.

• With effective allies and a campaign led from the front, the Congress can put up a good fight, and, if it irons out structural issues, probably win.

• The Congress possibly erred in concentrating too much on putting up a good fight, and could not convey winnability to the voter with emphasis.

*Projecting a chief minister candidate, and beginning its campaign earlier may have helped Congress wrest Gujarat.n Rahul's elevation as Congress president appears finely timed in immediate retrospect; he emerges strong within the party too, which may mean bad news for the likes of Ahmed Patel and the old coterie.

• Senior Gujarat Congress leaders like Shaktisinh Gohil and Arjun Modhwadia lost; perhaps the party needs to look at a newer lot in the state.

• The Indian voter's finger never ceases to surprise.

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