New Delhi: Faced with a certain defeat in Gujarat, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal on Thursday said exit poll results and pre-poll predictions gave Chief Minister Narendra Modi a natural advantage in the assembly elections.
"I have been saying this, the nature of the media in our country is such that Modi has complete control of the media in a sense and support of the media," Sibal told reporters outside Parliament premises.
"The kind of exit polls results and pre-poll predictions gave him a natural advantage in this election," he said.
On Modi's winning streak in Gujarat, Sibal said the results were not as spectacular as the media had predicted.
"As far as Gujarat is concerned, this was supposed to be a runaway win for Modi. What happened was there was a 3D campaign and the result is only 2D. But the manner in which they said that they will win 150-140 seats in Gujarat, I feel that has not happened," he said.
Sibal said in Gujarat the people who were opposed to Modi remain opposed to him.
"But, this much is true, we should congratulate Modi for his win. He has managed to get 2D results through his 3D campaign," he said.
On Modi being projected as prime ministerial candidate, Sibal said, "BJP will decide. It is a multi-brand party. There are many contenders. They will decide which brand to take forward."
Victory raises Modi's PM candidature prospects
Modi's third successive victory in the Gujarat assembly polls is expected to pitch him for a more prominent role in the BJP, possibly as head of its campaign for the next general elections, while some party leaders even expressed their preference for him to be projected as the prime ministerial candidate.
Modi's victory, almost on the same scale as in 2007 polls, came as a morale booster for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which lost the electoral battle in Himachal Pradesh.
Some party leaders said Modi should now be projected as the BJP's prime ministerial candidate.
BJP MP Tarun Vijay said Modi "is the best suitable candidate" for the post of prime minister on the basis of his performance.
Another MP, Smriti Irani said that Modi would be her candidate for the country's top post on the strength of his governance in Gujarat.
BJP sources now say Modi would be given a prominent role to galvanise the party rank and file for the next Lok Sabha elections.
"He is likely to be appointed chief of the party's campaign for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls," a party leader told IANS on the condition of anonymity. The appointment could take place in January next year.
Modi's victory has come at a crucial time for the BJP as it has to decide its next party chief over the coming few weeks. Nitin Gadkari, who has been party president since December 2009, has faced controversy over alleged financial wrongdoing by a company linked to him and there have been suggestions from some party leaders against giving him a second term.
The BJP had kept a final decision on its next president pending in anticipation of results of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh and is now expected to take a call on the issue.
With Modi having emerged as one of BJP's powerful leaders, his views are likely to matter on crucial issues facing the party.
Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said Modi was a very senior leader in the BJP and extremely popular with the party rank and file.
"His views matter... taken very seriously in BJP," Jaitley told a news channel.
Senior journalist S. Nihal Singh said Modi was expected to win Gujarat and the question was how well he does. "After an impressive victory, at least a section will push for him to be prime ministerial candidate," Nihal Singh told IANS.
"I think he (Modi) is a very ambitious man. That is what he wants," he said but added that it will increase complications within the BJP as there were other aspirants too for the post.
Nihal Singh added there were apprehensions about Modi's "divisive persona whether 2002 or otherwise" and the BJP would have to take a call on how it will impact its prospects.
He said there was doubt about Muslims voting for Modi and the community vote can influence outcome on several seats in states such as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
"That is another problem for BJP."
Janata Dal-United, an ally of the BJP, is not in favour of Modi being projected as a prime ministerial candidate.
BJP sources said the party was unlikely to project a prime ministerial candidate before the Lok Sabha polls but Modi's expected appointment as chief of the campaign committee would send the right message to the party rank and file without upsetting any of the allies.
"We can tell the allies that a decision on prime ministerial candidate will be taken after the Lok Sabha elections," said a party leader, requesting not to be named.
He said Modi's appointment as campaign committee chief would make it a battle between him and Rahul Gandhi, who is heading Congress's coordination committee for the next Lok Sabha polls.
Nisar-ul-Haq of Jamia Millia Islamia's political science department, however, said that Modi was unlikely to be effective outside Gujarat and added he would not be projected as prime ministerial candidate.
"I don't think he will be projected as prime ministerial candidate," he said, adding that other leaders in the party, including Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj, also were contenders for the post, while party veteran L.K. Advani could also be in the reckoning.
BJP secures absolute majority in Gujarat
Modi on Thursday led the BJP to a decisive win in Gujarat for a third time in a row with the party securing absolute majority clinching 103 seats of the 162 results declared for the 182-member assembly and leading in 13 seats.
Arch rival Congress, out of power in the state for the last 22 years, won 53 seats and its candidates are leading in 7 more.
NCP of Sharad Pawar, which fought the election in alliance with Congress, has won two seats and JD(U) one. Others have bagged three seats, including one by Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) of former Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel.
Congress suffered a major blow when its state unit chief Arjun Modhwadia lost the Porbandar seat to Babu Bokhiria of BJP by 17,146 votes, while Leader of Opposition Shaktisinh Gohil was defeated by Minister of State for fisheries Purushottam Solanki of the saffron party by 18,554 votes in Bhavnagar rural constituency.
Both were strong contenders for chief ministership in the event of Congress coming to power.
However, Shankar Singh Vaghela, Congress spearhead in the poll campaign and former state Chief Minister, managed to win Kapadvanj seat defeating Kanubhai Dabhi of BJP by a margin of 6597 votes.
Not an easy win for Modi: Khurshid
External Affairs Minister and Congress leader Salman Khurshid on Thursday said Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's victory in the state Assembly election was not an easy task.
"We have lost Gujarat but won Himachal, but it wasn't an easy for Modi. It was close fight. We are in the right direction; we will have go back to drawing board. One election doesn't make him PM candidate," Khurshid told NDTV.
'Congress won where Rahul campaigned'
Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari on Thursday praised Rahul Gandhi and said the Congress won all the constituencies in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh where the party general secretary had campaigned before the assembly polls.
"One interesting thing is that in all the constituencies where Rahul Gandhi campaigned, in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, Congress has won," Tewari told media.
Pertinently, both Rahul and Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi had campaigned in the states before the elections.
Jaitley taunts Chidambaram
Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Arun Jaitley on Thursday took a jibe at P. Chidambaram over his claims that the Congress has emerged as the winner in Gujarat, saying the Finance Minister is suffering from an optical illusion.
"Mr. Chidambaram has been a long serving Finance Minister and he has a great amount of experience as a Finance Minister. And what Finance Ministers are told when the economy is doing badly 'you must talk up the economy'. So, he is in the habit whenever adverse data comes, he appears and says that the fundamentals are very strong," said Jaitley.
"So, when he was faced with an adversity for the Congress Party in Gujarat today, he somehow saw a paradox, converted a categorical defeat into a victory. I think it was an optical illusion he suffered from," he added.
Chidambaram earlier on Thursday said the Congress Party has gained several seats in Gujarat and contained Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Chidambaram said the Congress Party is a winner in both Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat.
"Congress is the winner. Congress has won according to the last results I saw the Himachal election. And in Gujarat too, in my view the Congress is the winner. Congress has gained several seats and BJP is being contained the last numbers that I saw below 117. If the BJP does not cross 117 and the Congress has improved its tally, the Congress is the clear winner in Gujarat too," he told mediapersons outside the Parliament here.
Misery mounts for Congress in Gujarat
Gujarat is a tale of woes for the Congress, out of power for over twenty long years, with Narendra Modi performing an electoral hat-trick.
There are problems abound for the party in the state, which was once its stronghold and has now become BJP's Hindutva laboratory.
Congress is lacking in all departments to match Modi in persona, campaign, strategy and organisation despite making the Chief Minister as the issue in successive elections.
The irony of Congress in Gujarat in this election was evident when it had to again rely on Shankersinh Vagehla and Keshubhai Patel, the two former BJP Chief Ministers with RSS associations, to do Modi in.
While Vaghela was the Campaign Committee chief of Congress in the state, Keshubhai parted ways with the BJP to form the Gujarat Parivartan Party aimed at ending the 'emergency like situation' in the state, an attack on Modi.
Though the party consciously avoided to rake up the issue of post-Godhra riots and make communalism a poll issue in order to avoid polarisation in the state where minorities are not more than 10 per cent, Modi appears to have retained his core base.
PCC chief Arjun Modhwadia and CLP leader Shaktisinh Gohil suffered humiliating loss in the election despite leading an aggressive anti-BJP campaign, which showed that the party may have to burn the midnight oil to stop the Modi juggernaut even in the coming Lok Sabha election in 2014.
Being in the Opposition for long, a despondency appeared to have had set in the party and the realisation that it cannot wrest power from Modi was evident with its leaders refraining from making any tall claims this time before the results were out, a scene different from what was witnessed during the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, where too Congress was routed.
The party was hopeful that with Keshubhai Patel launching a virulent campaign against Modi, Congress will be a default beneficiary. However, Keshubhai's GPP fared very badly, though he himself won his seat.
Modi exchanges pleasantries with rival Keshubhai
Modi met dissident BJP leader and Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) chief Keshubhai Patel here on Thursday.
"He came to seek my blessings. I congratulated him on his victory...we exchanged sweets," said Patel after meeting Modi.
Keshubhai Patel, who broke away from Modi to form the GPP, has won from Visavadar constituency defeating BJP minister of state for agriculture Kanubhai Bhalala.
While Keshubhai polled 85,967 votes, the BJP candidate garnered 43,781 votes. Congress has not fielded any candidate against the 84-year-old veteran.
Keshubhai, former chief minister and BJP rebel, floated GPP four months ahead of the Gujarat elections and led a vitriolic campaign against Modi, but his party did not impress even in the Saurashtra region, which is dominated by his rich and powerful community.
Expressing his delight with the BJP leading in the Gujarat assembly polls, Modi earlier in the day said that there was 'no need for looking behind'.
"No need for looking behind, FORWARD! We want infinite energy, infinite courage, infinite patience," he tweeted.
It hurts that Gujaratis can't see truth: Shweta Bhatt
Congress candidate Shweta Bhatt, who lost to Chief Minister Narendra Modi in the Maninagar assembly constituency, on Thursday vowed to continue to work for the problems of the people, and added it is sad that Gujaratis have failed to see the facts hidden behind the vibrant campaign.
"It hurts me that people of Gujarat can't see the truth. My fight was against injustice fear and hatred. I am doing it even now. I think that the election system has become so transparent that people come to know which society, caste or group voted in favour or against. It may be that the people are voting out of fear," she said.
Shweta Bhatt, who is the wife of suspended IPS officer Sanjeev Bhatt, said she sees the voters' verdict as her win.
"Today, around 35,000 to 40,000 people have voted for me. I see it as my victory because I think that I have been able to convince them with my ideology," said Bhatt.
"As far as Maninagar is concerned, the chief minister has never gone there. There is no development, there are no gutters, schools, hospitals, roads and electricity. I then realised that these people need my support," she added.
Modi won from the Maninagar assembly constituency by over 86,373 votes. Modi, who is looking for a third consecutive term in Gujarat, polled 1,20,470 votes.
Shweta Bhatt, who had claimed in her election campaign that her fight against Modi was to re-establish the democracy in Gujarat, bagged 34,097 votes.
Modi seeks his mother's blessings after triumph
Modi met his mother on Thursday afternoon and sought her blessings.
Expressing his delight, Modi said earlier in the day that there was 'no need of looking behind'.
"No need of looking behind, FORWARD! We want infinite energy, infinite courage, infinite patience," he tweeted.
Gujarat voted for development?
The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), an apex trade association in the country, on Thursday congratulated Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on his third consecutive win in the state assembly elections.
"Gujarat has voted for development," said ASSOCHAM president Rajkumar Dhoot while congratulating Modi.