There were at least 16 seats in the previous Assembly elections in Gujarat where the victory margin was less than 3,000 votes that affected the prospects of candidates from both the main parties – the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress – almost equally.
Seven of these seats witnessed victory margins below the 1,000-mark.
Of these 16 seats which witnessed slender victory margins, 10 went to the BJP, while the grand old party managed to win six.
In the 2017 state elections, the lowest winning margin was recorded in Kaprada (Scheduled Tribe) seat of Valsad district, where BJP candidate Madhubhai Raut lost to Congress candidate Jitubhai Chaudhari by a wafer-thin difference of 170 votes.
While Raut received 92,830 votes, Chaudhari managed to secure victory with 93,000 votes. Chaudhari had switched sides in 2020 and was given a ticket by the BJP for the byelection from the same seat that year, and also for the next month’s polls. In some cases, it was observed that a considerable number of votes going to smaller parties like the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) as well as to independents played a spoilsport for the Congress.
One such seat was Muslim-dominated Godhra in Panchmahal district.
BJP candidate C K Raulji defeated Congress’ Pravinsinh Chauhan by a thin margin of 258 votes. Raulji, a former Congressman, has been once again given a ticket for the Godhra seat.
Apart from nearly 4,000 votes which went to NOTA (none of the above) and the BSP, two independents received little over 20,000 votes.
Senior BJP leader Bhupendrasinh Chudasama managed to sail through with a slender margin of just 327 votes from Dholka seat in 2017.
Many believe that nearly 11,000 votes which went to the BSP, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and two independents turned the table in favour of the BJP.
Mansa seat of Gandhinagar also witnessed a nail-biting finish with Congress candidate Suresh Patel defeating BJP’s young turk Amit Chaudhary with 524 votes. Notably, Chaudhary had won from the same seat in 2012 on Congress ticket but he later on jumped ship ahead of 2017 elections.
Tribal-reserved Dangs was another seat where a small margin sealed the fate of BJP candidate Vijay Patel, who lost to Congress’ Mangal Gavit by 768 votes.
Former Energy Minister and sitting BJP MLA of Botad seat, Saurabh Patel, managed to sail through with a slim margin of 906 votes. He received 79,623 votes, while his closest rival D M Patel bagged 78,717 votes. Saurabh Patel has been dropped this time by the party.
The Congress managed to snatch Deodar seat of Banaskantha from the BJP with a margin of just 972 votes. While Congress’ Shivabhai Bhuriya got 80,432 votes, his rival Keshaji Chauhan received 79,460 votes. In Chhota Udaipur (ST) seat, 10-time Congress MLA Mohansinh Rathva struggled to win the elections as nearly 13,000 votes went to NOTA, AAP candidate Arjun Rathva and an independent.
Despite the odds, Mohansinh won the poll by a thin margin of 1,093 votes by defeating BJP’s Jashubhai Rathva.
Other seats which saw victory margins in the range of 1,000 to 3,000 are – Talaja, Vijapur, Himmatnagar, Porbandar, Gariadhar, Khambhat, Fatepura and Dabhoi.
Since Congress suffered more in terms of losing near-certain seats due to thin margins, the party has chalked out a plan to reduce the number of independents and convince other smaller parties not to field their candidates in such seats, said Gujarat Congress working president Lalit Kagathara.
”It is a fact that independents and smaller parties, like BSP, had snatched our votes in 2017. Through our damage control task force, we will definitely try to reduce the number of independent candidates and convince smaller parties. We will try our best to keep the number of candidates as low as possible to prevent division of our votes,” he said.
On the other hand, the ruling BJP also came up with a plan to win such seats.
”To win back those low-margin seats, which had slipped from our hand in the previous elections, our workers are putting extra efforts there on booth level management. That will increase our votes and eliminate the issue of low victory margin because our votes will be much higher than the rivals,” Gujarat BJP spokesperson Kishor Makwana said. Political experts believe that dividing the votes of the opponents is one of the poll strategies which creates such a narrow victory margin scenario.
”When a party is sure that voters of a particular area or caste will never vote for its candidate, that party would support independents of that area to create division of votes for the rival. This will increase the winning possibility and sometimes such seats are won with a thin margin too,” political expert Ravindra Trivedi said.