The BJP’s record 156-seat victory in the Gujarat Assembly polls, the collapse of a suspension bridge in Morbi killing 135 people, and the premature release of 11 convicts undergoing life term in the Bilkis Bano case on remission dominated the year 2022.
The BJP’s victory- the seventh consecutive term- mainly on the plank of development under a ”double engine government”, can potentially propel it ahead of opponents when the narratives for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls begin to set in.
It was a rout for Congress which won only 17 seats while the new entrant Aam Aadmi Party bagged five seats. However, in at least 35 seats, the combined votes polled by candidates of the Congress and the AAP exceeded the votes polled by BJP nominees.
Gujarat was rocked on October 30 when the British-era cable suspension bridge with a crowd of revellers enjoying the Diwali vacation collapsed into the Machchu river, killing 135 people and injuring several others.
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In July, hooch claimed 50 lives in Botad district in the ‘dry’ state.
On the legal front, a court in February sentenced a record number of 38 convicts to death holding them responsible for the 2008 synchronised blasts in Ahmedabad which killed 56 people and sentenced 11 others to life imprisonment.
Memories of 2002 communal riots rekindled after 20 years when 11 convicts serving a life term for the gang rape of Bilkis Bano gang and murdering her family members were released from jail on remission in August.
This decision of the Gujarat government triggered outrage and led to a legal challenge in the Supreme Court.
After the top court upheld the clean chit given by the SIT to incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi and 63 others, including senior government officials in the 2002 Gujarat riots, the police arrested activist Teesta Setalvad, and IPS officers R B Sreekumar and Sanjiv Bhatt in June for allegedly fabricating documents to frame innocent people in the riots cases.
On the social front, public flogging of youths from the Muslim community by the police in Undhela village after stones were thrown at a Garba event in October led to an outrage.
On the crime front, the daylight murder of Grishma Vekariya, a college student, in February in Surat by her jilted lover Fenil Goyani, in front of her family members, sent shock waves.
Security agencies seized drugs worth crores during the year from the porous coast of Gujarat, which showed the state has emerged as a transit route to smuggle the banned substances.
In April, heroin worth Rs 1,430 crore was seized near Kandla port.
In the same month, the Indian Coast Guard seized a Pakistani boat carrying heroin worth Rs 280 crore and arrested nine crew members.
In July, heroin worth Rs 376 crore was seized near the Mundra port.
The issue of illegal migration to the US from Gujarat came to the fore following the tragic death of a family of four hailing from Dingucha village on the Canada-US border in January. The deceased Jagdish Patel, his wife, and two children froze to death just a few metres away from the US border in Canada.
Police cracked down on agents involved in illegal human trafficking after the incident.
The highlight of the year was the Assembly elections given Gujarat is the home state of PM Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah.
The contest was expected to be three-pronged between the ruling BJP, the opposition Congress, and Aam Aadmi Party.
But in the end, the ruling party had the last laugh as it reaped the rich harvest of 156 out of 182 seats and retained power for the seventh consecutive term.
Arvind Kejriwal’s high-pitch campaign centred on ‘freebie’ politics had added an interesting dimension to the traditional bipolar political contest between BJP and Congress.
For BJP, PM Modi was the main campaigner. He visited the state several times in the year while another son-of-soil, Amit Shah, remained camped in Ahmedabad for over two months fine-tuning the poll campaign strategy.
The AAP’s campaign was led by Delhi chief minister Kejriwal, his deputy Manish Sisodia, and Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann. However, the campaign fizzled out in the last leg.
The Congress, on the other hand, carried out a ‘silent campaign’ as their leaders remained busy with the Bharat Jodo Yatra. Rahul Gandhi addressed a couple of rallies while taking a break from the Yatra.
The post-result analysis revealed that Congress’s vote share of 41 per cent in 2017 eroded to 28 per cent in the 2022 polls while the AAP won 13 per cent of the total votes polled.
The elections were held in the shadows of the Morbi tragedy.
The investigation suggested the tragedy was waiting to happen as the Oreva group of companies, which got the contract for maintenance of the British-era bridge, carried out cosmetic renovation and repairs and opened it for the people during Diwali.
The spurious liquor menace, which remains a chronic issue in ‘dry’ Gujarat, claimed the lives of more than 50 people in July in Botad and Ahmedabad rural areas. The probe found the liquor was spiked with methyl alcohol.
In April, then UK prime minister Boris Johnson became the first premier of Britain, which had colonised India, to visit the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad from where Mahatma Gandhi had led the freedom movement.
Another foreign dignitary, UN secretary General Antonio Guterres, visited the first solar-powered village in the country at Modhera in October.
For the first time, Gandhinagar hosted the prestigious Defence Expo in October which attracted huge investments and showcased indigenous defence production capabilities.