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BJP Sweeps Panchayat, Municipality Polls in Gujarat

BJP Sweeps Panchayat, Municipality Polls in Gujarat

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Manas Dasgupta

AHMEDABAD, Mar 2: Totally deleting the urban-rural divide the Congress was able to create five years ago, the BJP continued on its march to sweep the local body elections in Gujarat virtually reducing the grand old party to the status of “also ran.”

After capturing power with massive majority in all the six municipal corporations in the state last week, the BJP in the prime minister Narendra Modi’s home state was again heading for absolute majority in all the 31 district panchayats, 196 of the 231 taluka panchayats and 75 of the 81 municipalities.

Though the agricultural reform measures have not yet become an issue in Gujarat which is one of the largest producers of cash crops including cotton and groundnut oil seeds, the BJP leadership was quick to claim that the party’s performance in the district and taluka panchayats stamped the farmers’ approval for the three contentious farm laws the repeal for which the farmers of Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh were holding forte on the outskirts of Delhi for the last three months.

The Congress which in 2015 had captured 26 of the 31 district panchayats and over 160 of the 231 taluka panchayats in the wake of the “Patidar Anamat Andolan,” the agitation by the Patels over reservation benefits, was leading only in 33 taluka panchayats and four municipalities. In the district panchayats, the party till Tuesday evening could win only 157 seats in 31 bodies as against 735 seats already captured by the BJP even as the counting of votes was still in progress.

Though the Congress was still its “closest rival” with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) also snatching away a few seats here and there, the differences between the two main rivals had become so wide in the first few hours of counting that the Congress lost all hopes of revival even at late stage. From the progress of counting, it was increasingly becoming clear that the gap could only further widen in favour of the BJP.

According to the results announced till the evening, the BJP had won 3,013 seats in the taluka panchayats as against 1,120 by the Congress, and 1,960 seats in municipalities against 356 by the Congress. The independents with three seats in district panchayats, 100 in taluka panchayats and 164 in municipalities were running third while the AAP had so far claimed two seats in the district panchayats, 28 in taluka panchayats and nine in municipalities, a far worse performance than 27 seats it won in the 120-member Surat municipal corporation to emerge as the only opposition party against the BJP in the diamond city last week. The Bahujan Samaj Party was the only other political party to give a semblance of presence in Gujarat with one seat in the district panchayats, four in taluka and six in municipalities so far.

Last week, the BJP swept polls across six key municipal corporations of Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot, Vadodara, Bhavnagar and Jamnagar, winning 483 of 576 seats. The AAP registered its presence in Gujarat by winning 27 seats in Surat at the cost of the Congress, which failed to win a single seat in the diamond city. In the “thanks giving” rally organized in the presence of the AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal in Surat, the Delhi chief minister made his intentions clear about his party going for the 2022 state Assembly elections in a big way hoping to provide the viable alternative to the Congress in the state.

The Gujarat BJP sought to give the AAP chief a reality check. State BJP chief CR Patil jibed that Kejriwal was holding a roadshow to celebrate the large number of AAP candidates who had lost their election deposits – forfeited when a candidate fails to get one-sixth of the total valid votes.

The AAP and Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM also contested in the Gujarat local body polls, apart from traditional rivals BJP and Congress. The AIMIM fielded candidates in minority-dominated seats of Modasa and Bharuch municipalities. It also contested in the Godhra municipality.

The political observers believe that the presence of the AAP and the AIMIM further damaged the prospects of the Congress because the anti-BJP votes got divided in three-way benefitting the saffron party.



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