The ruling BJP was on Monday set to retain power in Gujarat, just edging past the half-way mark in one of the most bitterly contested elections that saw the Congress improve its tally compared to five years ago.
Election Commission officials said the Bharatiya Janata Party, on course for its sixth consecutive win, had bagged 58 seats and was leading in 41 while the Congress had won 50 and was forging ahead in 27 more.
Smaller parties and independents had won three seats and were leading in three.
While the BJP celebrated all across Gujarat and in Delhi, the 99-seat tally was far less than the 150 BJP President Amit Shah had set for the party to win and 16 less than what it got in 2012 despite intense campaigning by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Congress, its campaign led by its now President Rahul Gandhi, was poised to finish with a tally of 77, 16 more than what it bagged five years ago.
Outside Parliament, a beaming Modi flashed a V sign to celebrate the victory in his home state. Senior BJP leaders taunted Rahul Gandhi and said the result proved that the people had embraced the Gujarat model of development.
But the BJP's overall vote share in the state plunged from 60.11 per cent notched in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls to 49 per cent, indicating a sharp erosion in support base in a state which the party considers its fortress.
The vote share of the Congress, which joined hands with Patidar leader Hardik Patel, Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani and OBC leader Alpesh Thakore, soared from 33.45 per cent of 2014 to 41.5 per cent.
As it happened:
5:55 pm: Declared results (164 seats): BJP - 87; Congress - 72; Others - 5
5:18 pm: Declared results (156 seats): BJP - 82; Congress - 70; Others - 4
5:05 pm: "I would like to give credit for this victory to the people of Gujarat, also give assurance that in the coming 5 years BJP will work towards what the people of the state want" says Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani
4:40 pm: “I acknowledge with humility people’s verdict who have voted for @BJP4India and reposed faith in the politics of good governance - a dominant theme flourished by @narendramodi on the Indian political landscape,” Rupani tweeted.
“Abhar Gujarat (Thank you Gujarat)! It’s the victory of the people of Gujarat, their unshakable faith in the agenda of development, casteless & classless society. We are indeed blessed! And promise to live up to the expectations more than ever before,” he said.
Rupani also thanked the people of Rajkot from where he won by over 54,000 votes.
“I heartily thank my trustworthy voters of Rajkot for reposing trust & confidence. I am humbled by this victory.
Thank you RAJKOT,” he said in another tweet.
4:30 pm: Rahul Gandhi tweets: 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.
Rahul Gandhi tweets: 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’s greatest strength is its decency and courage.
4:20 pm: We are confident that when we go into 2019 elections under the leadership of PM Modi we will once again get people's support and Modi ji's aim for the youth in 2022 will become a reality: Amit Shah, BJP President
4:18 pm: I am confident that we will again be victorious in the next elections and that the people will again give us a chance to serve them: Shah, BJP
4:18 pm: PM Modi came up with plans and agendas to serve the people of the country and this has been successful, I am thankful to everyone for having faith is us: Shah, BJP
4:18 pm: We have now reached to 19 having state governments across the country and we will continue to serve the people: Shah, BJP
4:17 pm: Congress made an attempt to fight elections through outsourcing and they have failed in their attempt: Shah, BJP
4:17 pm: Opposition said that the people of the nation are unhappy with the economic reforms undertaken by the Centre, but the victory has proved that people have accepted the decision of PM Modi: Shah, BJP
4:15 pm: Two Independents who won support Congress+ and so does NCP so the Congress+ tally right now is 84 and BJP is 98-99: Randeep Surjewala,Congress
4:15 pm: We have once again emerged triumphant. I offer heartfelt gratitude to the people of Gujarat and Hiamchal Pradesh that they gave us anther opportunity to serve them: Amit Shah
4:12 pm: This is a victory of development over dynasty and polarisation: Amit Shah, BJP President
4:12 pm: Congress had a very good campaign in Gujarat, Rahul ji's campaign reminded us of Indira ji: Ashok Gehlot,Congress
4:10 pm: We have once again emerged triumphant. I offer heartfelt gratitude to the people of Gujarat and Hiamchal Pradesh that they gave us anther opportunity to serve them: Amit Shah
04:10 pm: Amit Shah thanks people for victory, says BJP win is defeat of casteism, nepotism
04:00 pm: Victory in Gujarat & Himachal shows people have once again accepted PM Modi, his policies & Gujarat model. They've voted for development & against corrupt Congress. It'll have positive impact in Karnataka: BS Yeddyurappa, Karnataka BJP President
03:40pm: PM Modi tweets: I bow to the people of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh for their affection and trust in BJP. I assure them that we will leave no stone unturned in furthering the development journey of these states and serve the people tirelessly.
PM Modi tweets: Election results in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh indicate a strong support for politics of good governance and development. I salute the hardworking BJP Karyakartas in these states for their hardwork which has led to these impressive victories.
3:22 pm: Delhi: BJP President Amit Shah arrives at party HQ as workers celebrate party's lead in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh
3:20 pm: There has been tampering in EVMs in Surat,Rajkot and Ahmedabad, hence the gap is very less wherever tampering happened. EVMs are hackable: Hardik Patel
3:15 pm: "I express my gratitude to the people of Vadgam for all their support. Now I will raise the voice of Gujarat's discriminated sections in the assembly," says Jignesh Mevani who is leading by 19696 votes from Vadgam
02:59 pm: BJP Parliamentary party meeting to be held at Parliament Library building on 20 December
02:48 pm: Trends show BJP leading on 101 seats against Congress' 79
02:17 pm: "In his opening innings he scored zero" says Goa CM Manohar Parrikar
02:16 pm: Undoubtedly, a major victory. The kind of work which Party workers have done right from booth workers level till PM's level, everybody put their best foot forward and both Gujarat & Himachal Pradesh have recognised the good work going on in the name of development: Nirmala Sitharaman
Delhi: Union Minister Rajnath Singh flashes victory sign outside Parliament as trends indicate BJP's victory in both Gujarat & Himachal Pradesh #GujaratVerdict #HimachalPradeshElections2017 pic.twitter.com/8x8q5gGNsp— ANI (@ANI) December 18, 2017
01:42 pm: PM Modi to be given credit for BJP's victory: Shivraj Singh Chouhan
01:05 pm: "It is a matter of happiness for us, this is the victory of development," says Union Minister Smriti Irani, on a question about Congress giving a tough fight she said, "jo jeeta wohi sikandar. It is victory of every booth worker's hard work & the people who trusted development"
01:00 pm: Not disappointed with Gujarat poll results, satisfied with party's performance: Rahul Gandhi
12:39 pm: People have rejected divisive politics of Congress, this win is due to the dynamic leadership of BJP and the hard work of BJP workers: Yogi Adityanath
11:56 am: Taking a jibe at Alpesh Thakore, BJP workers cut mushroom-shaped cake in party office.
11:39 am: Former CM Anandiben Patel hails BJP's victory in Gujarat polls.
11:29 am: As of now, BJP's vote share is 49 per cent, Vote share of Congress is 42.
11:28 am: EC Official trends: BJP leading on 101 seats, Congress on 74, Bhartiya Tribal Party on 2, NCP on 1 & Independent candidates on 3 seats.
11:19 am: Vijay Rupani to continue as Gujarat CM, Nitin Patel to continue as Deputy CM: BJP sources
11:10 am: CM Vijay Rupani wins from Rajkot West with over 25000 votes.
11:05 am: Independent candidate Jignesh Mevani leading by 10785 in Vadgam
10:54 am: Tally shows BJP winning on 106 seats, while Congress on 72 seats, and Others on rest 4 seats.
10:51 am: India TV's Exit poll seems to accurately match the current tally. India TV exit poll had predicted 108-118 seats for BJP, and 61-71 seats for Congress.
10:49 am: "Will form Government in both Himachal and Gujarat with clear majority" says Home Minister Rajnath Singh
10:48 am: Leading with 21,000 votes, CM Vijay Rupani set to win on Rajkot West seat
10:35 am: BJP wins Elisbridge seat and Ahmedabad seat.
10:34 am: Ultimately BJP is going to register victory, contrary to early trends BJP is leading almost everywhere now: BJP's Nitinbhai Patel
10:33 am: Trends show BJP leading on 105 seats against Congress' 73
10:29 am: Trends show that there is no loss to BJP anywhere across the state: Deputy CM Nitin Patel
10: 28 am: Everytime BJP as emerged victorious, CM Rupani is now ahead with 10000 votes, I am also leading: Nitin Patel
10:18 am: BJP's Jitu Vaghani, Nitin Patel, Saurabh Patel trailing.
10:17 am: EC Official Trends for Gujarat Election 2017: BJP crosses halfway mark, takes lead on 94 seats, Congress ahead on 64.
10:03 am: There has been neck-to-neck in Gujarat. After 22 years, BJP still playing on front foot despite anti-incumbancy: Sambit Patra
09:58 am: Trends show BJP leading on 105 seats against Congress' 73
09:56 am: After six rounds of counting, BJP leading on 78 seats, Congress on 64 seats.
EC Official Trends for #GujaratElection2017: BJP leading on 77 seats, Congress leading on 59.— ANI (@ANI) December 18, 2017
09:49 am: Trends show BJP leading on 95 seats against Congress' 85.
09:47 am: Seems like Dalit voters -- traditional BJP supporters -- have again voted for the saffron party: India TV analyst
09:45 am: Vijay Rupani leading by 7600 votes from Rajkot West, at the end of Counting round 3
09:43 am: EC official trends show BJP leading on 65 seats, Congress leading on 56.
09:42 am: Trends show BJP leading on 100 seats against Congress' 80
09:36 am: Vijay Rupani leading by 1800 votes from Rajkot West
09:32 am: BJP's Jitu Vaghani, contesting from Bhavnagar West seat, leading by 2200 votes
09:30 am: Trends show BJP leading on 90 seats against Congress' 86
09:25 am: With Congress' lead in trends, Sensex has fallen by 800 points.
09:19 am: Trends show Congress leading on 90 seats against BJP's 80
09:17 am: Early trends show Congress leading on 89 seats against BJP's 86
09:11 am: BJP's top brass in Gujarat trailing from their respective seats. CM Vijay Rupani trailing from Rajkot West, Deputy CM Nitin Patel trails from Mehsana, Jitu Vaghani, BJP state president and considered close to Amit Shah trailing from Bhavnagar West against Congress candidate Dilipsinh Gohil.
09:08 am: CM Rupani, Nitin Patel, Jitu Vaghani trailing on their seats.
09:02 am: First 172 trends show Congress ahead with 87 seats, BJP trailing with 83 seats.
08:57 am: Early trends now show Congress leading with 82 seats.
08:56 am: 154 early trends show BJP leading on 87 seats, Congress on 65 seats.
08:54 am: CM Vijay Rupani trailing on Rajkot West seat.
08:50 am: 149 trends show BJP leading on 88 seats, Congress moves to 61 seats. Others ahead on 2 seats.
08:46 am: In 145 trends, BJP leading on 88 seats, Congress on 55 seats
08:38 am: Congress' Arjun Modhwadia trailing on Porbandar seat
08:35 am: In 115 trends, BJP leading on 71 seats, Congress on 43 seats.
08:33 am: Out of 101 trends, BJP leading on 63 seats, Congress on 37 seats.
08:28 am: First 82 trends show BJP leading on 52 seats, Congress on 29, Others on 1.
08:27 am: EVM counting begins. BJP leading in Surat - the hub of businessmen.
08:26 am: Jignesh Mevani, Alpesh Thakore leading on their seats.
08:21 am: Early 60 trends show BJP leading on 38, Congress on 21, Others - 1.
08:19 am: Vijay Rupani leading on Rajkot West seat, Nitin Patel leading on Mehsana seat
08:18 am: On 30 postal ballot trends, BJP leading on 21 seats, Congress on 9.
08:15 am: BJP's Jitu Vaghani leading leading on Bhavnagar West seat
08:13 am: Postal ballot trends show BJP leading on Veergam seat, bastion of Hardik Patel
08:09 am: BJP - 5, Congress - 2 in early trends
08:06 am: BJP makes first gains, leading on 3 seats against Congress' 1.
07:55 am: Supporters perform 'Hawan' outside Congress President Rahul Gandhi's residence in Delhi ahead of counting of votes
07:54 am: The Congress is hoping to surprise the BJP, riding on a wave of support from caste groups like Patidars, OBCs and Dalits.
06:48 am: The EC on Sunday night withdrew notice to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi over his TV interviews during Gujarat polls, and said it will revisit a provision in the election law under which it was issued.
06:46 am: More than 70 per cent voter turnout was recorded in the re-polling held on Sunday at six polling booths in four Assembly constituencies of Gujarat
06:45 am: The voting in two phases – December 8 and December 14 – was held following an acrimonious campaign, where both the BJP and Congress indulged in no-hands-barred attacks on each other.
The BJP has been in power in the state since more than 22 years with the major share of that under the tenure of Modi as Chief Minister. But after having ruled for more than two decades, the saffron party is feeling a strong wave of opposition in the form of various agitations from different sections of the society.
A majority of these forces have joined hands with the opposition Congress party and the more than two-decades reign seems to be on the downslide. That's the reason why Narendra Modi, despite his very busy schedule, has made Gujarat virtually his home since the last couple of months and has been visiting the state every other day.
Lately the saffron party has felt that the young Patidar leader Hardik Patel has been gathering more people in his rallies and that even their star campaigner Modi is not garnering the crowds he used to do in the state.