The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) registered a landslide victory by winning 41 out of 44 seats in the Gandhinagar Municipal Corporation (GMC) elections, results of which were declared on Tuesday. The Congress could win just two seats, while the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) opened its account with one seat.
The BJP also won general/mid-term elections in two of the three municipalities in the state apart from majority of the by-elections of various seats in different municipal corporations, municipalities, district panchayats, and taluka panchayats. For a decimated Opposition Congress, the only consolation was the victory in Bhanvad municipality of Devbhumi Dwarka district where it snatched the local body from the BJP.
Apart from GMC, the Gujarat State Election Commission (SEC) had conducted general or mid-term elections of three municipalities and by-elections to two municipal corporations (3 seats), 39 municipalities (45 seats), seven district panchayats (8 seats) and 41 taluka panchayats (45 seats).
In the general/mid-term elections of three municipalities, BJP won two — Okha in Devbhumi Dwarka district and Tharad in Banaskantha district. In Okha, BJP won 34 of 36 seats. In Tharad, BJP won 20 out of 24 seats.
In Bhanvad municipality of Devbhumi Dwarka district, the Congress snatched power from the BJP by winning 16 of the total 24 seats.
Among the by-elections for three seats of two municipal corporations, two seats of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation were won by the BJP and the one seat of Junagadh went to Congress, which also wrested one seat of Junagadh Municipal Corporation held by the Nationalist Congress Party.
On the by-poll of one seat of Junagadh Municipal Corporation, the BJP candidate lost his election deposit as he could garner only 637 votes, which was less than one-sixth of the total polled votes.
Of the 45 seats of municipalities that went for by-elections, BJP won 37 seats, while the Congress could win only one. Asaduddin Owaisi-led All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) party won one seat (of Bharuch nagarpalika) and independents won on four seats.
Among the eight seats of seven district panchayats where by-elections were held, BJP won five and Congress three.
Of the 45 seats of various taluka panchayats that witnessed by-elections, BJP won on 28 seats, Congress won 14 and AAP won two.
Following the victory in GMC elections, Gujarat BJP president CR Paatil and Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel greeted party workers at BJP headquarters in Gandhinagar.
“We have historic results in the elections of Gandhinagar Municipal Corporation and other regions of Gujarat. It once again proves that people have full confidence in (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi…For the development of Gujarat, voters of Gujarat have once again given the authority of its capital Gandhinagar to the BJP; and the BJP will fulfil the trust put in them by the voters,” said Paatil.
These were the first major elections after Bhupendra Patel took over as chief minister. Paatil said that the people have “welcomed” Patel with the historic victory. The two previous elections of the GMC, which got the status of a municipal corporation in 2010, were closely fought between the BJP and the Congress. This is the first time that AAP has contested.
Taking a dig at the AAP, Paatil said the party should cancel their ticket to Gujarat if they have booked one. “I want to repeat it that there is no space for a third party in Gujarat. The prudent voters of Gujarat know very well voting for which party would keep the interest of Gujarat and India safe. I salute them,” Paatil said.
Paatil added that the party’s victory was because its workers stood by the people in all circumstances, including the Covid-19 pandemic.
Congratulating the party workers, the CM said that Paatil was asking him how come BJP won three seats less (in GMC). “We have to work while keeping target of 182 seats (for assembly elections due next year) in mind,” said Patel.
Former national president of BJP’s youth wing and current party incharge of Anand district, Amit Thaker, was appointed as the incharge of GMC elections.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Thaker attributed the landslide victory to the guidance provided by Paatil in micro-planning such as forming page committees, social engineering, getting voters to the voting booth with direct contact, having effective booth management for all 284 booths, effective campaigning on social media, and the the use of PM Modi’s image with slogans like – Mara Modi Damdaar, Kamal nu Button Dabavo Chaar Vaar (My Modi Strong, Press the Lotus Button Four Times).
Thaker said the party’s strategy to adopt no-repeat policy in allocation of tickets also worked in favour.
When asked what this victory means for Gujarat BJP, Thaker said, “In the first GMC elections, we lost. In the second, we tied. Now, we got this huge victory, which will give confidence to workers that if we are talking about winning all 182 seats in the Assembly, it is indeed possible. Party workers and election analysts will begin to believe that BJP can win 182 seats in the Assembly.”
Thaker also gave an example of party’s social engineering in which it fielded a Scheduled Caste candidate on a general seat in Ward No. 6 of GMC and won. With that, the party now has six Scheduled Caste candidates in GMC. This time, the post of mayor is reserved for a Scheduled Caste candidate, so the new mayor is likely to be one of the six.
In the first general elections of GMC in April 2011, Congress won with 18 seats when the BJP got 15. In 2016, the GMC had total 32 seats and there was a tie with Congress and BJP winning 16 each. However, Congress councilor Pravin Patel defected to the BJP, which formed the board, and he was nominated as mayor.
The general elections for 2021 were due in April. However, due to the Covid pandemic, it was postponed to October. Before the elections, delimitation exercise was undertaken in which 18 villages in the periphery of the state capital were brought within GMC limits, increasing the number of seats to 44 in 11 wards.
Voting for the elections of GMC and other local bodies were held Sunday when the GMC witnessed average 56.24% voter turnout. In the current elections, of the total votes polled, BJP’s share is 46.49%. In comparison, Congress’s vote share is 28% and that of AAP is 21.77%. In 2016, the voter turnout was 52%. Of those total votes polled, BJP’s share was 44.76% against Congress’s 46.93%.
In February, this year, the BJP had won all the six municipal corporations, 31 district panchayats and most of the municipalities and taluka panchayats that went to polls.
Thanking the people and congratulating Congress workers for its historic win in Bhanvad, party spokesperson Manish Doshi said, “We have also won 14 seats in by-elections of taluka panchayat elections and three seats in zila panchayat elections across the state… we have given good fight to the BJP despite its power-hungry methods.”
Alleging that in GMC elections, the AAP worked as BJP’s B-team, Doshi said the party was brought by the government to Gandhinagar to divide the votes of people who were angry over the “anti-youth, anti-marginalised and anti-farmer policies” of the BJP government.
“We accept the defeat in GMC polls… despite the hard work put in by our workers and senior leaders, we were unable to break the illusion of BJP governance in front of the voters despite the Covid mismanagement and the resulting deaths in Gujarat. We will do an analysis of the mistakes on our part…,” Doshi added.
Addressing a press conference, AAP Gujarat president Gopal Italia said, “I thank the people of Gandhinagar for giving their vote on the issues of health and education. The BJP and Congress might claim that the AAP has lost but we worked extremely hard to present ourselves as a strong opposition to BJP.”
Appreciating AAP workers “who had nothing but passion to fight against a party that misused police and administration”, Italia said, “We all know how our party workers were threatened and harassed by police days before polling. Despite these, our candidate managed to secure one seat. On Congress claiming us to be B-team of BJP, I would like to state that Congress has been losing in Gujarat for the past 27 years and every time it brings up an excuse for its own failures.”
(With inputs from Vaibhav Jha in Ahmedabad and Gopal Kateshiya in Rajkot)