"Very Disappointing": Congress Leaders On Predictions Of Gujarat Rout

The BJP is tipped to sweep Gujarat and has a slight edge in Himachal Pradesh, according to the exit polls.

BJP set to win a record seventh term in Gujarat, says the poll of polls

New Delhi:

As exit polls predicted another dismal election outing for the Congress, featuring defeats in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, party leaders conceded that there were shortcomings in their campaign.

The BJP is tipped to sweep Gujarat and has a slight edge in Himachal Pradesh, according to the exit polls.

Powered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP is set to win a record seventh term in his home state, says the poll of polls. The Congress is projected to be a distant second in Gujarat, but the margin is narrow in Himachal Pradesh.

"If Gujarat turns out to be this then it is very disappointing," Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi told NDTV, stressing, however, that exit polls often missed the mark completely.

Mr Singhvi said he had visited Surat and parts of Ahmedabad and had "found the spirit very upbeat".

"But the BJP, I would concede, does have an edge. Money power is very visible there," he said.

"If (the exit polls are) true then yet again it is the success of an extremely polarising campaign. That is unfortunately true of Gujarat campaigns - there is a certain BJP construct created over the last few decades and I think it is holding good, if these results are true. There is no other explanation except the fact that you have created a fear in every speech of the PM and every leader - 50-70% devoted to innuendo, insinuation, minority communities, divisiveness..." Mr Singhvi said.

Another Congress leader, Nasir Hussain, was candid about problems within, including the belated campaign.

Everyone expected at least Himachal Pradesh to go to the Congress, he said. "I still feel in Himachal, the Congress will get enough seats to form government," claimed the leader who has emerged as a close aide of Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge.

"In Gujarat, the AAP (Aam Aadmi Party) factor was there... The campaign had not picked up earlier. When the momentum picked up, AAP was there and it was concentrating on our votes," Mr Hussain said. When it was pointed out that the exit polls had predicted an abysmal showing for AAP in Gujarat, contrasting with its all-out campaign, the Congress leader laid the blame at the door of his party's Gujarat unit.

"There were problems in the Gujarat Congress...Initially we thought we will launch a low profile campaign, not spending huge resources. We thought of a different kind of campaign, reaching out to voters, smaller meetings, larger number of meetings," he said.

But finally, Mr Hussain added, the votes had been sharply divided between the Congress and AAP.

AAP and its chief Arvind Kejriwal put up a flamboyant campaign in Gujarat, pitching the party as the main rival to the ruling BJP instead of the Congress.

The Congress, which delivered its best performance in the 2017 polls since 1985, faded even more into the background because of its spiritless campaign. Exit polls, however, indicate the party will remain the principal opposition in the state, with AAP barely registering its presence.