In Gujarat, Rahul Gandhi's Congress Wins 80 Seats, Its Best In 35 Years

Gujarat assembly election results 2017: The Congress, led by Rahul Gandhi, won 80 seats against the BJP's 99.

In Gujarat, Rahul Gandhi's Congress Wins 80 Seats, Its Best In 35 Years

Gujarat Results 2017: Rahul Gandhi said the Congress accepts the verdict of the people.

Ahmedabad:  The Congress has been bested by the BJP in Gujarat - the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, where his party has been in power for 22 unbroken years. But the opposition party has managed to notch up its highest score in 35 years, in an election considered the bellweather before the 2019 general elections. And it has done so in face of a campaign where the BJP had pulled all stops, and initial hiccups like the desertion of its tallest leader in the state, Shankersinh Vaghela.

Late on Wednesday evening, the Congress won 80 seats against the BJP's 99. The ruling party, despite its high voltage campaign -- in which the Prime Minister himself held 37 rallies in the state -- had falling short of 100. The tally was way behind its 2012 score of 115 seats and the "Mission 150" target set by Amit Shah.

Back in 1985, in the wave following the assassination of Congress's former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the Congress had won 149 seats. After a lot of ups and downs in the subsequent elections, the party had won 61 seats in 2012. This year's tally is a steep climb of 19 seats.

Part of the reason was the Congress's inclusive campaign, in which it had managed to bring on board three young leaders from the state -- Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mewani and Alpesh Thakore, each with a distinct following among the Patidars, Dalits and backward castes.

The result was big gains in the BJP strongholds of Saurashtra and Kutch, where the ruling party's tally had slid from 36 seats to 23, pushing BJP chief Amit Shah to blame his party's lean majority on the Congress's "caste politics and low level of political discourse".

The Congress also opened its account in Vadodara with 2 seats.

After the verdict came in, Rahul Gandhi, who had led the party from the front -- be it in stitching up a coalition or his hotly debated 'temple run' -- expressed gratitude to the people of the state.

"The Congress party accepts the verdict of the people and congratulates the new governments in both states. I thank the people of Gujarat and Himachal with all my heart for the love they showed me," Mr Gandhi tweeted.

The 47-year-old leader, who had taken charge of the party from his mother Sonia Gandhi two days ago, also thanked the party members for their contribution.

"My Congress brothers and sisters, you have made me very proud. You are different than those you fought because you fought anger with dignity. You have demonstrated to everyone that the Congress' greatest strength is its decency and courage," another of his tweets read.

Rahul Gandhi's rebranding from what critics called a "reluctant" leader, which has unfolded during the Gujarat campaign, is the other factor that is seen as the other solid gain for the Congress. His fresh energy has drawn a favourable response from the Shiv Sena, the BJP's fractious ally, and a section of the opposition parties.

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