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BJP retains urban hold, rural Gujarat gives Congress a chance

In the urban centres, the BJP won in the Patidar constituencies, though its ward-wise tally, compared to 2010, was down in the municipal corporations.

 

Gujarat election 2015, Gujarat polls, Gujarat civic elections, Gujarat elections, Gujarat Election result 2015: BJP candidates celebrate their victory in Municipal elections along with their supporters in Ahmedabad on Wednesday. PTI Photo

The BJP retained its hold on urban Gujarat, winning elections to all six municipal corporations and most municipalities Wednesday while the Congress staged a comeback in rural areas, taking most districts and surging ahead in the taluka panchayats.

Ousted from every tier of the power structure by the BJP in election after election in the state during Narendra Modi’s tenure as chief minister, the Congress, jubilant yet cautious, described the local body election results as a “verdict against the BJP government”.

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The results were being closely tracked by both parties given the backdrop of the Hardik Patel-led agitation for Patidar reservation.

For Chief Minister Anandiben Patel, this was the first electoral test since she took charge from Modi last year. In first remarks, she described the verdict as “the people’s faith in the development politics of the BJP”.

The BJP captured the six municipal corporations of Ahmedabad, Baroda, Surat, Rajkot, Jamnagar and Bhavnagar and some party leaders interpreted this as a rejection of the bid by Patel protesters to turn urban voters against the BJP. But other leaders were not so sure, saying the Patels may have hurt the party’s chances.

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In Viramgam, the hometown of Hardik Patel who is in jail facing sedition charges, the BJP picked up more municipal seats than it did in 2010. In Saurashtra, the BJP won the municipal corporations but was defeated in nine of 11 district panchayats and in most taluka panchayats.

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The Congress took cheer from the fact that it won five district panchayats around the six metros — the Surat district panchayat went the BJP way.

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The closest fight was witnessed in the Rajkot municipal corporation — the BJP won 38 wards and the Congress 34. Sofia Dal, a Muslim fielded by the BJP, was among the victors.

The BJP won at least 41 of 56 municipalities across 29 districts while the Congress won nine in the districts of Amreli, Mehsana, Patan and Vadodara. The contest was close in Anand, Morbi and Surendranagar districts.

The Congress was ahead in 19 of 31 district panchayats, winning 568 seats. The BJP was trailing with 360 seats though final figures were still to come in. In the October 2010 elections, the BJP won over 540 seats while some 240 went to the Congress.

In the talukas, trends suggested Congress leads in 2,455 seats and the BJP in 1,953 seats. In 2010, the BJP took 2,460 seats while the Congress had 1,428.

At the BJP headquarters, Anandiben Patel told party workers: “It is good to be modest after a victory, but not to be anxious about defeat.”

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“We got very little time to fight these polls. For the corporations, we had only six days for campaigning. In the districts, we got 13 days. As far as the district and taluka panchayats are concerned, we have got a slightly low score which is a fact. We will accept the results as the choice of the voters,” she said.

Gujarat Congress chief Bharatsinh Solanki claimed “we have won panchayat polls in areas covering 105 assembly seats that form 70 per cent of the state’s electorate… This indicates that a political change will come in the 2017 assembly elections’’.

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Elections to the local bodies were fought under two new situations — wards of municipal corporations and towns had been redrawn and 50 per cent of seats in municipal corporations and municipalities had been reserved for women.

A senior BJP leader, a veteran of many a Gujarat election, told The Indian Express: “We have actually lost the local body elections… Ame harya kahevay… we have not been able to restrict the Congress in the semi-urban and rural areas as we had been doing since 1995.”

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“All these years, we made a clean sweep of the cities (which account for over 80 assembly constituencies) and would get enough votes from rural areas around the city. We have managed to keep city votes but for the first time in so many years, we have lost crucial additional votes from the peripheral rural areas,” the leader said.

The BJP has retained its hold on the urban voter but the “Hindutva fever”, Congress and BJP leaders conceded, is on the wane.

According to the BJP leader, anti-Patel votes and a low turnout in the six metros helped his party more than the Hindutva or development plank.

Two successive years of weak monsoon and an alleged “lack of sensitivity for farmer woes” are being blamed for the erosion of BJP support. “We have lost the balancing votes of the villages,” the BJP leader said.

The Congress too was not exactly cheering. Party insiders said Bharatsinh Solanki and Shankersinh Vaghela didn’t combine their efforts and the Congress remains weak and divided. There is also no clarity in the party over the Patidar demand for reservation.

A senior Congress leader told The Indian Express: “We fear that the Patel vote is a one-time vote. They are unlikely to vote again for the Congress.”

First published on: 03-12-2015 at 03:20:08 am
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