Fourth-time CM eyes first-time PM

Narendra Modi

Gujarat voted for the BJP under Chief Minister Narendra Modi for the third straight term, buying into his inclusive development plank. The state clearly voted out a third force, but did not totally reject the Congress's dream-home promise either.

The BJP's final tally of 115 seats out of a total 182 indicated that Gujaratis were ready to take the ruling party's inclusive growth story forward while also voting for the personality cult that was a strong feature of the assembly elections held this month. The state also showed that it did not mind taking along brave dissidents such as Keshubhai Patel.

Besides Patel, Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela won, although the party's chief Arjun Modhwadia and its legislature party leader Shaktisinh Gohil, lost. Even BJP state president R C Faldu lost.

Political observers said this suggests that the opposition in the new Gujarat assembly could be RSS-powered, with Vaghela and Keshubhai on the same side.

Although Modi described the victory as a "hat-trick", the Congress bettered its score to 61, two seats more than 2007. Modi, speaking outside the BJP headquarters in Khanpur, mocked "poll pundits for getting it wrong" and asked people to "forgive him for any mistake that he might have made" as the crowd began to shout "NM for PM" towards the end of his speech.

This is the closest Modi has come to apologising after the 2002 Godhra riots.

Repeatedly crediting "voters" for his victory, Modi called the 6 crore Gujaratis, "God" and asked them to "bless him so that he does not make any mistake in the future". He added that the BJP was his "maa" and went on to thank the "mothers and sisters" and "youth", covering the BJP's loyal votebank. He also specially thanked the "karmayogis" (government employees) as he said 75 per cent of the postal ballots were in the BJP's favour.

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