February 20, 2021 12:42:31 am
The issues of building a Ram temple in Ayodhya and the abolition of special status of Jammu and Kashmir granted under Article 370 has returned to the poll plank 35 years after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) first won the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) election fighting on them.
In 1987, when the party was contesting its second election after its launch, it had led a high-octane campaign on the Ram temple and abrogation of Article 370. The BJP was elected the municipal corporation for the first time with a complete majority that year.
The party now hopes to return to power in the local body – which will go to polls on February 21 – by highlighting the achievements of the Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre on the two key issues.
Recalling the events and BJP campaigning of 1987, former MoS defence and seven-time MP Harin Pathak, 73, who started his political career with Jan Sangh in 1967 to be elected as a corporator thrice from the BJP’s bastion Khadia ward, said these national issues certainly had influenced party’s campaigning at that time and continues to hold relevance even today.
“Party’s policies and ideology certainly influence the elections, be it civic or Assembly. In 1987, slogans of ‘Ayodhya ma Ram, pachhij aaram, gau hatya bandh karo’ (Rest only after bringing Ram to Ayodhya, ban cow slaughter) and slogans against Article 370 were heard on the city roads, which also became issues for the corporation elections,” Pathak, who was a parliamentarian for seven consecutive times from 1989-2014, said.
Admitting that these national issues will help the party in the AMC elections this time, too, Pathak said since the voters were satisfied with the party and its work that has ruled for so long, they are aware of its ideology.
In their campaigns in the city, Union Minister for Agriculture Parsottam Rupala and Minister of State for Home Pradeepsinh Jadeja, who started out as a corporator in the AMC, have been listing the Ram temple and scrapping of Article 370 as achievements of the BJP.
Former state minister and MLA from Dariapur-Kazipur Bharat Barot (70), said, “From 1985-87, we were the ones who wrote these (on Ram temple, Article 370) slogans on the city’s walls, which were predominantly seen on the Ashram Road, Shahibaug underbridge and across all colleges. Other young workers of Yuva Morcha — (the late) Haren Pandya, Bimal Shah, Pradeepsinh Jadeja, Ranchhod Desai, and Kamlesh Patel, who were active at that time, were elected as MLAs and became ministers.” Along with Article 370 and Ram temple, cow protection, and common civil code were also key issues during the AMC elections.
Bharat Barot’s mother Jasumati Chimanlal Barot was one of the first women to be elected on an unreserved seat (on Madhavpura seat) along with Bhamini Patel, who was elected from Dariyapur ward, another unreserved seat.
Senior leaders of both the BJP and the Indian National Congress (INC) also recall the Hindu-Muslim riots and the reservation agitation of 1985 that had rocked the city during the period.
“From 1985 to 1987, the issues of Hindu-Muslim riots, and the reservation agitation leading to Mandal Commission found a major place in the AMC election campaigning. There was a major dominance of Muslim leaders in the Congress, who were engaged in vote bank politics,” Barot added.
Narhari Amin, who contested the AMC elections from the Janta Party, later joined the Congress before returning to the BJP, said, “The BJP’s growth in Ahmedabad from 1987 can be attributed to communal riots and reservation agitations.” Amin was elected corporator on a Janta Party ticket from Naranpura seat in the western Ahmedabad in 1980 and 1987.
A veteran Congress leader, a septuagenarian active in AMC politics till the late 90s, who did not wish to be identified, meanwhile accused the BJP of using Ahmedabad as a test lab. “Gujarat, especially Ahmedabad, was used as a test lab for polarisation of votes in the name of religion. They (the BJP) tested this for the first time in the state during AMC elections in 1987, a time when issues of reservation, communal riots were at their peak.”
Similar was for the issue of Ram Mandir, which they tested from Gujarat and Ahmedabad, he added.
Tulsi Dabhi, 63, another leader who was member-secretary of the Khadi Gramudyog Board and elected for the first time as corporator from Vasna ward in 1987, said, “We were campaigning for Ram Mandir and Article 370 in 1987. I had even gone to Lal Chowk in Kashmir to hoist the national flag later. These issues are hold string relevance even today.” Dabhi was appointed as chairman of AMC’s health committee for a year in 1995 and later made the AMTS chairman.
Another factor that helped the BJP to gain a majority in AMC for the first time was wresting of all seats from the newly incorporated wards in the eastern parts. In 1987, the AMC had also incorporated the suburbs in eastern Ahmedabad — Naroda, Bapunahar, Odhav, Rakhiyal and Vatva.
“We got all 21 seats from these wards, which was a turning point for the party that won a total of 67 seats,” Pathak added.
Barring the term from 2000-2005, despite several delimitations and revision of seats and reservation policies, the BJP has been the single largest party in AMC since 1987.
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