Gandhinagar, Dec 18, The ruling BJP was on Monday set to retain power in Gujarat, with its candidates on the victory lap in 104 of the 182 seats as the Congress again settled for the second place but with an improved showing.
After surprisingly leading over the Bharatiya Janata Party at one point and sending the stock market crashing, the Congress began to trail to the BJP again. Election Commission officials said the Congress was expected to grab 75 seats.
The BJP won 115 seats and the Congress 61 in 2012.
BJP supporters began celebrating in Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar even though some of its leaders, including Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel (Mehsana), were trailing to the Congress as officials counted the millions of votes polled on December 9 and 14.
Chief Minister Vijay Rupani too trailed at one time in Rajkot West but managed to reverse the situation after a while and ultimately won, the officials said.
Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani, with Congress backing, was leading by 6,900 votes.
As the BJP crossed the half-way mark of 92, the BJP heaved a sigh of relief. But the trends were very different from the exit poll predictions of a sweeping win for the BJP.
BJP President Amit Shah had repeatedly claimed that his party would bag 150 seats.
As overjoyed Congress activists, expecting a victory, began celebrating early in the day, the stock markets took a beating. But the Congress celebrations were shortlived -- and the stock markets made a quick recovery.
Modi, who had been the Gujarat Chief Minister from 2001 until he became the Prime Minister in 2014, flashed a V sign outside Parliament. Modi was the main campaigner for the BJP in Gujarat, his home state.
"We will form a government both in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh," Home Minister Rajnath Singh said in New Delhi.
Before the BJP crossed the half-way mark, Congress spokesperson Shobha Oza had said her party was equally confident of coming to power in Gujarat, saying people were "sick and tired of the 22 years of BJP misrule".
The BJP's better showing came from South Gujarat, Central Gujarat and North Gujarat. The Congress led in 33 seats in Saurashtra region compared to the BJP's 20.
The BJP was ahead in 26 seats (Congress 9) in South Gujarat. In Central Gujarat, BJP nominees had forged ahead in 27 constituencies (Congress 12) and in 31 seats in North Gujarat (Congress 21).
It was the first Assembly election in Gujarat after Modi became the Prime Minister.