However, development was hardly the party’s plank.

In a prestige battle for the two main parties and their leaders, the campaigns featured much acrimony and bad blood.

Modi, who had made the “Gujarat Model of Development” his calling card to woo national voters, didn’t quite deploy this supposed ace. Instead, during the nearly 40 rallies he attended in the state during the campaign, he mostly touched upon volatile subjects such as ultra-nationalism, Pakistan, the plan to build a temple at the site of a demolished medieval mosque in Uttar Pradesh, and of course the Gandhi family. Some accused Modi of lowering the stature of the prime minister’s position, besides puncturing his own aura by indulging in muckraking.

The Congress, on the other hand, had sought to ride on anti-incumbency by stitching together a coalition of castes—the Patidars or Patels, Dalits, and groups that form the other backward communities category. Over the past few years, the state had experienced several upheavals led by these communities, which have blamed the BJP for several of the social and economic grievances. Evidently, India’s grand old party wasn’t entirely successful.

What next?

Both the BJP and the Congress will end 2017 on a good note. The former particularly so as its Gujarat win was sweetened by another victory—also announced on Dec. 18—in Himachal Pradesh. Modi’s party cornered 44 of the total 68 seats in the northern hill state to defeat the incumbent Congress government.

Now as the two parties gear up for the 2019 national show, the two have a few more states to battle for in 2018 and 2019, including some key BJP-ruled provinces like Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh where, too, anti-incumbency is likely to be a strong factor.

However, given what the BJP managed in Gujarat even after 22 years, these states could be anything but easy for the Congress. Yet, after giving the Modi-Shah juggernaut something of a scare, there’ll be a newfound confidence that the Congress will count on.

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