Nearly 18 months after suffering defeat, the BJP on Thursday captured power in the Morbi municipality with its candidates winning the posts of president and vice-president. Fifteen of the 32 councillors who had won on Congress ticket in the civic polls voted for the BJP candidates on Thursday. Morbi, the epicentre of Patidar quota stir in Saurashtra, had voted the Congress to power in the last civic polls. The Congress had won 32 of the total 52 seats, while the remaining 20 seats were won by the BJP.
On Thursday, BJP’s Geeta Kanzariya defeated Congress’s Preeti Saradva for the post of president by polling 35 votes against 15 for Saradva. Similarly, in the vice-president election, Bharat Zariya of the BJP pipped Ganesh Nakum of the Congress by a margin of 20 votes.
The Congress had lost power in the municipality around six months ago when 12 of its councillors, led by Nayna Rajyaguru, defected from the party. The rebel councillors formed a new front called Vikas Samiti, and with the help of the BJP, Congress rebels Nayna Rajyaguru and Arjan Kanzaria were elected as president and vice-president. However, soon Kanzaria returned to the Congress fold and Anila Mehta became the vice-president.
Even as the Congress sought action against its 12 members under anti-defection law, a few Congress members joined forces with the BJP and brought no confidence motions against Rajyaguru and Mehta. While Rajyaguru could not prove majority on May 31, Mehta resigned hours before the floor test, clearing ground for fresh elections for the twin post on June 8.
The Congress has accused the BJP of using money and muscle power to capture power in Morbi municipality. “The BJP used money and muscle power to influence Congress councillors and gain control of the municipality by entering from back door. On the other hand, some of our candidates also turned out to be corrupt who forgot that they had been elected to work for the people,” said Brijesh Merja, president of Morbi district unit of the Congress.
The BJP, on the other hand, said that the Congress paid price of its factionalism. “Congress leaders had been fighting for occupying positions in the municipality. We supported Vikas Samiti once. But rest of the Congress members extended support to the BJP with an aim to topple Vikas Samiti. This is how they lost power. No money or muscle power was used,” Raghavji Gadara, president of BJP unit for Morbi district, said.
Morbi is the second major municipality in Saurashtra after Gondal where the BJP has managed to capture power from the Congress after losing them in the civic elections.