Gujarat Elections 2017: A Historical Perspective

This article was last updated on April 16, 2022

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Key Highlights:

State has been a Congress bastion till late 1980s enjoying support of upper caste, patidars & baniyas

In early ’80s Congress rooted for reservations to Dalits and OBCs creating the unbeatable KHAM alliance

Patels, a powerful block, disillusioned from Congress, started backing BJP

BJP formed its first govt. in the state in 1995 backed by the Hindu consolidation, created by Ram Mandir and Patidar support

BJP has been ruling Gujarat since then (only for brief period Shankersinh Vaghela, who split from BJP and later joined Congress, was the CM)

In 2001, Modi became the CM and rest is history

He consolidated BJP’s position in the state through his development model despite setbacks like Godhra

His work and organizational skills propelled him to become PM of India

Modi-Shah still hold sway over BJP govt. and control the state through remote control

Contest is fairly bi-polar, both BJP & Congress have increased their vote shares since 1995

BJP has maintained a lead of 10% in vote share over Congress


The state has been a fiefdom of Congress till late 1980s. Party ruled the state with minimal competition till then. Gujarat has been an industrious state and Swatantra Party which advocated a market based economy did have some presence initially but soon fizzled out. The first non-Congress government was formed in 1975, an alliance of Congress break away group plus Bhartiya Jan Sangh, Bhartiya Lok Dal and independents / others. It didn’t last long as it was dismissed by Indira Gandhi. After the victory of Janata Party in 1977 nationally, a Gujarati, Shri Morarji Desai, was appointed as the first the non-Congress Prime Minister of India. Soon after, the non-Congress government in state was re-instated. In 1980, Congress made a comeback in the state in line with its strong performance in national elections.

Solanki stitched the KHAM alliance before the 1980 election that completely shifted the power balance from Patel-Brahmins-Baniyas to OBCs, Dalits and tribals in the caste constellation of Gujarat. To counter Solanki’s OBC and KHAM politics, the upwardly mobile Patel community nurtured the BJP. In 1981 the state saw a bloody anti-reservation stir that left 40 dead and a whole lot of property burnt in the course of its 100 furious days. More than that, it totally devastated the social fabric of the state. In 1985, Solanki returned with a record 149 seats, violence spread again and he had to step down.

Name Of Party 1962 1967 1972 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 1998 2002 2007 2012
CONGRESS 113 93 140 75 141 149 33 45 53 51 59 61
SWATANTRA PARTY 26 66 0                  
CONGRESS (O)     16 56                
BHARTIYA JANATA PARTY   1 3 18 9 11 67 121 117 127 117 115
JANATA PARTY         21 14 0          
JANATA DAL             70 0 4      
OTHERS & INDEPENDENTS 15 8 9 33 11 8 12 16 8 4 6 6
TOTAL 154 168 168 182 182 182 182 182 182 182 182 182

In 1990 in the aftermath of OBC reservations by VP Singh, a hung assembly situation emerged in Gujarat. Janata Dal and BJP formed the government. After BJP withdrew support to National Front govt. in Delhi, Chimanbhai’s govt. survived through Congress support. In 1995, for the 1st time BJP secured an absolute majority on its own bagging 121 seats. Keshubhai, a Patel became the CM. However, Shankersinh Vaghela, split the party and became CM for a brief period of 1 year. In 1998 elections were held before the expiry of term in 2000 and BJP again romped home with Keshubhai in the lead.

In Oct. 2001, Keshubhai resigned as CM after losses in by-elections and Narendra Modi was appointed as CM. The rest is history. Despite large scale Godhra riots after he took oath, in which he was accused of abetment and later discharged by courts, Modi has emerged stronger after each elections. He led BJP to its highest tally of 127 seats in 2002. The Gujarat model of governance propelled him to become PM candidate in 2013. After taking oath as PM, BJP named Anandiben Patel and then Vijay Rupani as CM of Gujarat. However, it’s well-known fact that Modi-Shah Jodi holds the remote control of govt. from Delhi.

In terms of vote share, both blocks BJP and Congress have held onto their support base, in-fact they have witnessed an increase in their vote shares since 1995. This has made the contest increasingly bi-polar. However, BJP have maintained a 10% lead over Congress throughout this period as seen in the graph above. Let’s see if it can maintain this lead, or Congress makes some dent in its anchor vote segments…

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