As the Bharatiya Janata Party managed to retain Gujarat for the sixth time in a row by winning 99 Assembly seats on Monday, the newspapers on Tuesday could not resist the inevitable cricket metaphors.
On the morning after the election results for Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh were announced, the front pages focused as much on the BJP’s narrow-margin win in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state as the long strides that the Congress has taken in Gujarat despite its loss. Winning 77 seats, the Congress succeeded in taking over a large part of the rural Patidar-dominated belt of Saurashtra, even as the BJP strengthened its hold over the big cities.
The BJP also enjoyed a smooth victory in Himachal Pradesh. But the hill state was sidelined on Tuesday’s front pages as Gujarat took centrestage.
The Times of India and New Indian Express described the BJP’s bittersweet win in cricketing terms, emphasising the fierce fight put up by the Congress.
Navbharat Times also emphasised the BJP’s precarious position with the headline, “Voters leave BJP hanging at 99”.
The Ahmedabad Mirror and The Indian Express focused on the significance of the BJP’s victory for Modi, whose persona has unquestioningly driven the saffron party’s sweeping success across the country since 2014.
Modi’s personality cult also dominated headlines in some leading newspapers. “Gujarat belongs to bahubali [strongman] Modi,” said the headline in Mumbai Samachar.
Dainik Jagran, meanwhile, described Modi as “the biggest boatman”, focusing on how the BJP win in Gujarat and Himachal has relegated the Congress to ruling just five states in India.
Some Gujarati papers lauded the Congress for its own indirect “win” in Gujarat, even in the face of defeat.
Gujarat Samachar’s headline said, “BJP lost in victory, Congress won in defeat.”
Divya Bhaskar’s headline focused solely on the Congress, saying it “gave BJP a scare” in its victory. The paper also pointed out that this Modi’s 12th straight win (across elections in India) and Rahul Gandhi’s 29th defeat.
Meanwhile, Sandesh described the Gujarat result as “BJP’s victory, Congress’s rebirth”. The paper rounded up the number of Congress seats won to 80, after including the seats won by its allies from the Bharatiya Tribal Party and independent candidate Jignesh Mevani.
“Saved the house, but Congress at the door,” said Dainik Bhaskar, pointing out that this is the first time in 25 years that BJP has won less than 100 seats in Gujarat.
The Telegraph, meanwhile, rounded up its analysis of the election with a crisp summary of what the results mean for the two men at the helm of both their parties.