The BJP’s losses in by-elections took some sheen off Narendra Modi’s homecoming, his first visit to Gujarat after he took over as Prime Minister in May this year.
He was last here to thank the people of his state for the spectacular victory in the Lok Sabha elections that it contributed to by handing the BJP all 26 seats.
Four months later, as he landed in Gandhinagar, the Congress had won three of nine assembly seats for which by-elections were held. It has won at the cost of the BJP, which had vacated all those seats after its legislators became MPs.
Amid analysis on whether that four-month absence of Mr Modi has cost the BJP those three seats, the party also has to deconstruct what went wrong in Uttar Pradesh, where the Samajwadi Party has made big gains at its cost, and in Rajasthan, another state it swept in the national elections but where the Congress has won three out of four seats for which by-elections were held.
At a function today in Ahmedabad, Mr Modi thanked the people of the state for their warm welcome.
It is the Prime Minister’s 64th birthday tomorrow, but he has called off all celebration and requested that party workers contribute towards relief work in flood-ravaged Jammu and Kashmir instead. Tomorrow, Mr Modi will also welcome Chinese President Xi Jinping to Gujarat on the first leg of his India visit.
To make the day special, Chief Minister Anandiben Patel had urged the people of Gujarat and BJP workers to ensure that all the BJP’s candidates for the by-elections were elected as a gift for the Prime Minister.
The BJP has retained six assembly seats including Mr Modi’s seat for many years, Maninagar, and Vadodara, the Lok Sabha seat that he won and vacated in May.
The Congress – written off in the state after a rout in state elections less than two years ago and having won not a single seat in national elections in May – staged its surprise comeback in Mangrol, Deesa and Khambaliya.
These by-elections were seen as the first big electoral test for Anandiben Patel, who succeeded Mr Modi as Gujarat chief minister.