Independents appear to hold the key to forming local governments in Unjha and Visnagar towns of Mehsana district, which was one of the worst affected parts of Gujarat during the violence in August after a Patidar rally in Ahmedabad over the quota issue.
Elections in Mehsana were closely watched as it is the home district of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister Anandiben Patel and several state ministers.
Many district panchayats in north Gujarat, including Gandhinagar and Sabarkantha, went to BJP, but Ahmedabad was a close contest with Congress in the lead.
Narayan Patel, BJP MLA from Unjha constituency in Mehsana district, had told The Indian Express ahead of the polling day that at least 17 Independent candidates “fielded” by the party might win the elections. BJP had fielded no one from Unjha, fearing a backlash on account of the Patidar stir. While Congress managed to win only one seat, 35 went to Indpendents, including 18 women.
BJP had been winning the Unjha Municipality election for the past two decades.
Mehsana district panchayat, meanwhile, voted out BJP by giving it only nine seats. As many as 33 went to Congress.
Similarly, of the 17 seats in Unjha taluka panchayat, BJP won only one, while 12 went to Congress and four to Independents.
Mehsana district has four municipalities of which Congress won 12 seats in Visnagar, another town affected by the Patidar violence, and BJP won seven. Seventeen seats went to Independents. Kadi Municipality, home to BJP minister Nitin Patel, remained with the party, while Mehsana Municipality was won by Congress.
“BJP has fared better in cities where people have accepted us for our good work. Negative elements could not damage our party,” state Health Minister and government spokesperson Nitin Patel told The Indian Express. Asked if the Patidar agitation had any impact, he said, “These negative elements could not cause as much damage to party as they had intended to cause.”
Sabarkantha, largely tribal district, also voted for Congress generously. But, in Himmatngar town, BJP won 27 of the 36 seats. The remaining nine went to Congress, still five seats more than the previous election.
Congress also won all eight nagarpalikas. The district panchayat also went to the Opposition with Congress winning 29 seats and leaving the rest seven seats for the ruling party.
In the neighbouring Banaskantha district, BJP won Palanpur Municipality. It won 23 seats, while Congress closely followed it with 21 seats. In Deesa nagarpalika, the saffron party won 21 out of the 44 seats. Independents won on 17 seats, while Congress emerged victorious on six.