Six municipal corporations in Gujarat — Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot, Vadodara, Jamnagar and Bhavnagar — currently under BJP rule, will seek a fresh mandate from over 95.9 lakh urban voters Sunday.
For the BJP, which has dominated the municipal corporations in Gujarat since 1995, and won about 73 per cent of municipal corporation seats in 2010 when the then chief minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah were at the helm of affairs in the state, this election will be a litmus test for CM Anandiben Patel. It will also determine the impact of the ongoing agitation by the Patidar community.
This will be the first election where, apart from communally sensitive areas, those with Patidar dominance — like Bapunagar and Ghatlodiya in Ahmedabad and Varachha and Katargam in Surat — have been designated as “sensitive”. Nine people had died in the violence following a rally over the demand for reservation by Patidars in August.
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Professor P M Patel, former head of political science department at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, feels the Patel community, which forms 14-16 per cent of the total population in Gujarat, will have an impact only in a few areas during the municipal corporation elections on Sunday and the district and taluka panchayat elections on November 29.
Pointing out that the Patel community in the state has been voting for the saffron party since 1988-89, Professor Patel said, “Patidars have been mobilised by the politics of Hindutva with such intensity that the possibility of the community voting against the BJP in the local elections is doubtful. Despite the noise and counter mobilisation against the BJP, to me, it looks like it is difficult to shake the foundations of the saffron party’s very entrenched support among Patidars.”
That the unrest shook the BJP was evident as the CM announced a Rs 1,000-crore financial package to support students in higher education, but also fielded more Patel candidates — about 30 per cent — in the local body elections.
Agitating Patidar groups, like Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), recently asked members of the community to vote for the Congress during the local body polls in Gujarat.
“We have asked members of our community to pay homage to those killed during the Patidar agitation in Ahmedabad by voting out the BJP. On Sunday, about 90 per cent of the Patidar community will vote against the BJP,” claimed Atul Patel , a PAAS leaders and a close aide of Hardik Patel, who heads the group.