Capturing the last frontier in Gujarat, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept the Junagadh Municipal Corporation (JMC) elections on Tuesday by winning 41 out of the total 60 seats in the civic body. After facing a drubbing in the Lok Sabha elections in April, the loss of power in JMC marks the ouster of Congress from any significant institute of power in Gujarat.
The BJP candidates took lead in the early rounds of counting of votes and maintained it throughout. Eventually, the party prevailed on 41 seats. The saffron party clean swept ward numbers 2, 4, 6,7, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18 by pocketing all of the 39 seats. It also won one seat each from ward number 1 and 19 to grab more than two-third of the total seats.
Noticeably, Girish Kotecha, who was Deputy Mayor of Junagadh before he changed allegiance and joined the BJP last month, also won from ward number 11. With him, 11 other sitting Congress corporators had also joined the BJP and the saffron party had awarded tickets to seven of them. In the results announced on Tuesday, seven of the eight turncoat corporators, including Kotecha, were declared winners.
On the other hand, Congress managed to win only 16 seats. It won all the seats in ward number 3, 8, 9 and 20 and two seats each from ward number 5 and 19. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) won two seats in ward number 1 while an Independent also managed to register win from ward number 5.
Besides Kotecha, Junagadh city BJP unit chief Sanjay Koradiya was among prominent winners from the saffron party. For Congress, outgoing Mayor Lakh Parmar won from ward number 20 while former Mayor Satish Virda alias Captain was declared elected unopposed. Asif Sangh, one of the four Muslim candidates fielded by the BJP, won from ward number 2. On the other hand, six out of the seven Muslim candidates nominated by Congress won. Polling was held on Sunday and 51.17 per cent turnout was recorded.
Welcoming the victory, the BJP said that Junagadh had walked the path of other major cities in Gujarat. “With these elections, Junagadh has accepted the development of politics of the BJP. I thank the voters of Junagadh city for entrusting the BJP with this responsibility like other cities in the state have done,” Gujarat BJP president Ranchhod Faldu said.
Gujarat BJP general secretary and chairman of Gujarat Municipal Finance Board (GMFB), Vijay Rupani, claimed the results demonstrated their people had lost faith in Congress. “With this victory, all the eight municipal corporations in the state have got rid of Congress. They had lost in Lok Sabha elections also. This shows people have lost faith in Congress,” said Rupani.
On the other hand, Congress accepted the defeat and attributed it to anti-incumbency and defections. “We respect the verdict of residents of Junagadh. There was anti-incumbency against Congress and the party also sustained some losses due to defections,” Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) president Arjun Modhwadia said.
Asked what was the future of the party now that it had lost power everywhere in the state, Modhwadia said, “Change of power is common in politics. We have learnt our lessons from Junagadh elections and let’s not forget that Congress had won in Assembly bypolls held parallel to the Lok Sabha elections.”
After the high-profile defection of Deputy Mayor and the chairman of the standing committee, campaigning in the the civic body elections had remained asymmetrical. While Rupani had been camping in Junagadh for the last four weeks, ministers, state leaders, MPs and MLAs of the party had run a high-pitched campaign. On the other hand, Congress had kept its campaigning low-profile with Modhwadia and former GPCC chief Siddharth Patel doing canvassing during the last two days.