The number of such impregnable bastions goes up to a total of 55 seats if one takes into account the past four elections since 2002.
Over the past 24 years, while BJP has not lost 31 seats, Congress has managed to hold on to 15. One seat is the stronghold of Chhotu Vasava, the founder of Bharatiya Tribal Party, who hasn’t lost from there since 1995.
A majority of BJP’s invincible seats fall in cities — Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat, and Rajkot — while Congress has steadfastly retained its bastions in rural and tribal areas of central and south Gujarat despite being out of power for nearly three decades.
That there has been no power shift in these 47 seats is significant since both BJP and Congress faced major realignments in voter base because of delimitation in 2012.
Moreover, to some extent, the voters of these seats have been loyal to their respective parties in general elections too. Though BJP won all the 26 Lok Sabha seats in 2019, Congress got sizable leads in nine assembly segments of its strongholds. In 2014 too, when BJP bagged all the 26 seats, the Congress candidates led in 17 assembly segments.
Seats where voters have backed BJP continuously for last 22 years are Visnagar, Mehsana, Idar, Ellisbridge, Naroda, Maninagar, Sabarmati, Asarwa, Wadhwan, Rajkot West, Rajkot South, Rajkot Rural, Keshod, Mahuva (Bhavnagar), Botad, Nadiad, Kalol (Panchmahal), Waghodia, Vadodara City, Sayajigunj, Raopura, Bharuch, Ankleshwar, Olpad, Surat North, Surat West, Choryasi, Jalalpore, Navsari, Gandevi and Valsad.
Among the seats where voters have remained loyal to Congress are Khedbrahma (ST), Dariapur, Jamalpur-Khadia (earlier known as Jamalpur as Khadia was a separate constituency), Jasdan, Borsad, Mahudha, Vyara, Danta (ST), Kaprada, Vansda, Bhiloda and Vadgam.
The Jasdan assembly seat of Saurashtra is an exception. It was won by Congress five times in a row since 1998. But after the 2017 assembly election, the sitting Congress MLA, Kunvarji Bavaliya, switched over to BJP and won the byelection on a BJP ticket.
A senior tribal belt leader who has won multiple times on the Congress ticket said that while there have been some exceptions, the tribal community has stood with Congress and a number of strong leaders have emerged from the community.