Narendra Modi-Amit Shah

After retaining power in Gujarat and ousting Congress in Himachal Pradesh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said the "impressive victories" showed that there is strong support for "politics of good governance and development".

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) retained power in Gujarat, just edging past the half-way mark in one of the most bitterly contested elections that saw Congress improve its tally compared to five years ago. BJP also took power in Himachal Pradesh from Congress, although its two top leaders were worsted in the contest.

"Election results in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh indicate a strong support for politics of good governance and development. I salute the hardworking BJP Karyakartas in these states for their hard work which has led to these impressive victories," Modi tweeted.

"I bow to the people of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh for their affection and trust in BJP. I assure them that we will leave no stone unturned in furthering the development journey of these states and serve the people tirelessly," he added.

While BJP celebrated across Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and in New Delhi, the tally in Gujarat was far less than the target of 150 seats set by BJP president Amit Shah, despite intense campaigning by PM Modi.

Outside Parliament, a beaming PM Modi flashed a V sign to celebrate the victory in his home state. Senior BJP leaders also taunted Rahul Gandhi and said the result proved that the people had embraced the Gujarat model of development.

But BJP's overall vote share in the state plunged from 60.11 percent notched in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls to 49 percent, indicating a sharp erosion in support base in a state which the party considers its fortress.

The vote share of Congress, which joined hands with Patidar leader Hardik Patel, Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani and OBC leader Alpesh Thakore, soared from 33.45 percent of 2014 to 41.5 percent.

Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani brushed aside reports of BJP's waning support, saying the winner was always the king. "Jo jeeta wohi Sikander."

As the vote count began across Gujarat at 8 am, at one point the Congress leads went past the BJP's, giving a scare to the ruling party and sending the stock markets plunging down.

The BJP, however, managed to recover lost ground and eventually went past the half-way mark of 92 seats needed to control the 182-member House.

Chief Minister Vijay Rupani (Rajkot West) and Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel (Mehsana) trailed to Congress early in the day before bouncing back and winning. While Rupani won by 50,412 votes, Patel's victory margin was 7,951 votes.

BJP also held on in most seats affected by the Patidar agitation demanding job quotas, provoking community leader Hardik Patel to complain about faulty Electronic Voting Machines.

While the BJP dominated over Congress in South, Central and North Gujarat, Congress held the upper hand in the sprawling Saurashtra/Kutch region.

BJP also proved its sway over urban centres while the Congress seats came mostly from rural regions.

All Congress chief ministerial contenders lost -- Shaktisinh Gohil (Mandvi), Arjun Modhwadia (Bokhiria) and Siddharth Patel (Dabhoi). But the BJP suffered a setback in Unjha constituency which includes PM Modi's hometown Vardana where he grew up.

The Gujarat election was held on December 9 and 14 and was marked by a viciousness that pitted PM Modi against Congress, including his predecessor Manmohan Singh.

Congress also accepted defeat in Himachal Pradesh, which went to polls on November 9. Among its prominent winners were outgoing Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh (Arki) and his son Vikramaditya Singh (Shimla Rural), who entered the Assembly for the first time.

State BJP chief Satpal Satti was humiliated in Una by Satpal Singh Razda of Congress while the BJP's chief ministerial candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal lost in Sujanpur. Dhumal's confidants Ravinder Ravi, Gulab Singh and Randhir Sharma, all outgoing legislators, also lost.

Congress cabinet ministers Sudhir Sharma, Thakur Singh and Prakash Chaudhary faced defeat.

Chaudhary lost in Balh in Mandi district to BJP's Inder Singh Gandhi. BJP's Ravindra Dhiman defeated Congress' outgoing legislator Yadvinder Goma in Jaisinghpur and Kishori Lal of the BJP overcame Bansi Lal of the Congress from Anni.

BJP's Suresh Bhardwaj retained his Shimla seat, defeating Harbhajan Bhajji of Congress.

Anil Sharma, who resigned from the government and the ruling Congress and joined the BJP just before the polls along with his father and former Telecom Minister Sukh Ram, retained his Mandi seat.

Independent Hoshiar Singh dealt a humiliating defeat to heavyweights Ravinder Ravi (BJP) and Viplove Thakur (Congress) in Dehra. Outgoing legislator Anirudh Singh of the Congress retained his Kasumpti seat by defeating BJP's Vijay Jyoti Sain. Both belong to the royal families. CPI-M's Rakesh Singha defeated both the BJP and Congress in Theog.

A total of 337 candidates had contested the election and a total of 37,83,580 people voted in the hill state -- a record 75.28 percent polling.

With IANS inputs