In a shocking result for the BJP in Saurashtra, Congress on Monday won nine of the 11 district panchayats and most taluka panchayats in the region. The ruling party managed to withstand the onslaught only in urban areas. Riding on the anti-BJP sentiment prevailing among the Patidars, who dominate the region, Congress defeated the ruling party in Rajkot, Morbi, Jamnagar, Devbhoomi Dwarka, Junagadh, Amreli, Bhavnagar, Botad and Surendranagar district panchayats by big margins.
In Rajkot, considered a BJP forte, Congress bagged 34 of the total 36 seats. Morbi, which was the epicentre of the Patidar quota stir, saw a complete reversal of fortunes as BJP lost the district panchayat, one municipality and all five taluka panchayats to Congress. The only consolation for BJP came from Wanakaner Municipality, which it managed to retain.
The saffron party failed to open account in Tankara taluka panchayat in Morbi, and Manavadar and Visavadar taluka panchayats in Junagadh. Congress bagged all the seats in these local bodies.
Congress also blew away BJP from Amreli, another district dominated by the Patidars, and won Amreli and Savarkundla Municipalities, Amreli district panchayat and eight of the 11 taluka panchayats. Dhari taluka panchayat, home to BJP MLA Nalin Kotadiya who openly supported the Patidar stir and exhorted people to defeat his party, was also won by Congress.
The ruling party was also stunned in Botad where it managed to retain only the Municipality. It lost the district panchayat and all four taluka panchayats. It faced similar fate in Jamangar where the party lost all six taluka panchayats to Congress, including Kalavad, the hometown of Gujarat BJP chief Ranchhod Faldu. Even worse results came from Junagadh, where BJP lost all nine taluka panchayats and the district panchayat. Its sole victory was in Keshod Municipality.
However, the saffron party stood its ground in Porbandar and Gir-Somnath districts, where the Patidars in lesser numbers. In Porbandar, BJP won the municipality, the district panchayat and three taluka panchayats. In Gir Somnath, the saffron party managed to retain Veraval and Una Municipalities and was tied 7-7 in Gir Gadhda taluka panchayat.
BJP also continued its strong hold over urban areas of the region and retained power in municipal corporations of Rajkot, Jamangar and Bhavnagar. After a close fight, BJP managed to keep Congress at arms length in Rajkot Municipal Corporation (RMC), winning 38 seats against 34 of Congress, which in 2010 had won only 11 seats.
In Jamangar Municipal Corporation, BJP won comfortably by bagging 38 seats against 26 of Congress and its allies. Mayor Dinesh Patel retained his seat from Ward 3. However, his Bhavnagar counterpart Babu Solanki suffered a defeat from Ward 1 of the municipal corporation even as BJP retained power in the civic body by winning 34 seats against Congress’s 18. In demoralising results for BJP, Bhikha Vasoya and Nagdan Chavda, its chiefs for Rajkot city and district units, respectively, lost from Ward 11 of RMC, and Bedi seat of Rajkot district panchayat. In Kutch, BJP retained power in district panchayat, three municipalities and eight out of the 10 taluka panchayats. It lost Mandavi taluka panchayat, dominated by the Patidars, even as Congress continued its hold over Lakhpat taluka panchayat.
However, Water Supply Minister Vijay Rupani, who is an MLA form Rajkot, suggested not to read too much into the local bodies results. “There is no need for BJP to be disheartened nor for Congress to celebrate after the election. Let us not forget that BJP had won all 26 Lok Sabha seats in the state just one-and-half year ago. There are two more years to go before the Assembly polls and rivers will witness two floods by then. We shall bounce back in the 2017 Gujarat Assembly polls,” said Rupani.
But, former Gujarat Congress chief Arjun Modhwadia said people vented their anger against BJP. “The villagers and farmers have vented their angers against BJP which is focusing only on urban areas. This is a major victory for our party, though, we failed to perform better in urban areas due to weaker party units,” he said.