New Delhi: In the end, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the assembly elections in Gujarat—its sixth straight win in the state—but not without a struggle.

Its final tally of 99 seats was the lowest in more than two decades and the first time since 1998 that it slipped into double digits.

No doubt, it was enough to ensure a simple majority and seal a fifth consecutive victory for the BJP, whose campaign was led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Not only does this put the performance of the BJP in Modi’s home state under scrutiny, it is bound to bolster the morale of the Congress party, now under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi.

Soon after the verdict, BJP president Amit Shah, at a press conference in New Delhi, credited the victory to the policies of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by PM Modi.

Shah claimed the politics of performance won over the politics of caste.

“Election results in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh indicate a strong support for politics of good governance and development. I salute the hardworking BJP karyakartas (workers) in these states for their hard work, which has led to these impressive victories," Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted after the results were declared on Monday.

The electoral outcome, especially the margin of victory, in Gujarat has come under scrutiny as it is the home state of both Modi and Shah and was crucial in propelling the former onto the national stage.

The party had won all 26 Lok Sabha seats in Gujarat in the 2014 general election.

While officially the BJP brushed off questions, in private, senior leaders concede it was cause for introspection.

“We have won the elections and there can be no two ways about it. But there are clear challenges for the party. The first big challenge for the party is that while the party organization remains strong, there is a need to understand the concerns of the party workers better," said a senior BJP leader on condition of anonymity.

Senior leaders of the BJP point out that while the party managed to win Gujarat because of the popularity and connect of Modi, the same home advantage will be missing in the upcoming assembly polls in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, where again the BJP would be in a direct contest with its arch rival Congress.

“This is the second time in less than one year when the BJP had to defend its sitting government. The first time it happened in Goa in March, when BJP failed to get a simple majority on its own and this time our tally has come down. The message of development and good governance has to reach the people and should not be discussed primarily on social media platforms," the BJP leader cited above added.

Members of the BJP also argue that the party has to identify itself with the aspirations of the new voters or millennial voters, who will be eligible to vote in the 2019 general elections.

Political analyst say the assembly elections results in Gujarat has delivered a message for the leadership of both the BJP and the Congress.

“There is no need for the Congress party to feel dejected by the results. If the Congress prepares in advance and strengthens its organizational network, it can certainly give a tough fight to BJP," said Sanjay Kumar, director of the New Delhi-based Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS). “Similarly, the message for BJP leadership is that they should start a dialogue with different communities, including Patels and farmers, and try to understand their concerns. It is important for the BJP to engage with the people and start a dialogue."

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