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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Congress overthrows BJP in Gujarat’s Bhanvad municipality after 25 years

However, the saffron party found solace in Okha municipality in the same district where it registered a landslide victory, retaining power.

Written by Gopal B Kateshiya | Rajkot |
Updated: October 5, 2021 9:42:38 pm
Earlier, the whole of Arki block Congress including Rajender Thakur, son of former Minister Hari Dass Thakur, resigned to protest the high command’s decision to give a ticket to Sanjay Awasthi. (File)

The Congress threw the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) out of power in Bhanvad municipality in Devbhumi Dwarka district of Gujarat, winning 16 out of the total 24 seats in the mid-term election on Tuesday, ending a two-year-long slugfest for power within the BJP factions and the resultant political instability in the civic body. The result brought to an end the BJP’s 25-year-long reign in Bhanvad.

However, the saffron party found solace in Okha municipality in the same district where it registered a landslide victory, retaining power. The BJP won 34 out of 36 seats leaving just two for the Congress. In the last election, the BJP had won 20 and Congress 16. Interestingly, the BJP won all the four seats in ward five comprising the island of Bet Dwarka dominated by Muslims. It also swept other Muslim-dominated wards. Out of eight Muslim candidates fielded by the party this time, six won. Last time, two Muslim candidates had won out of six.

Polling for the mid-term election to Bhanvad municipality was on Oct 3 with 62.27 percent turnout recorded. So dominant was the Congress performance that the party won all the four seats in ward number 3 and 5 and three out of four in ward number 6. It also won two out of four seats each in ward number 2 and 4. The BJP did comparatively well only in ward number 1 where it won three out of four seats.

This is the first time since 1995 that the BJP has been voted out of power from Bhanvad, the hometown of Mulubhai Bera, former minister and incumbent chairman of Gujarat Rural Housing Board. Following the election in 2018, internal bickering and power struggle among the BJP councillors marred the last term of the party in the municipality. The incumbent president had failed to get the budget passed for FY 2020-21 and FY 2021-22.

In January this year, the Congress had given a notice of no-confidence against incumbent president Godavari Kanjariya and vice-president Narendrasinh Bharani of the BJP. However, neither of them called a special meeting of the 24-member general board of the civic body till March to discuss the no-confidence motion. Eventually, the district collector of Devbhumi Dwarka ordered a special general board meeting on March 24. At the meeting, Godavari Kanjariya and Bharani lost the vote of confidence by eight votes against 16 as eight BJP councillors rebelled against the party and voted against the motion by joining ranks with eight councillors of Congress.

But even though Godavari and Bharani ceased to be president and vice-president respectively on March 27, no general board meeting was called to elect a new president and vice president. The district collector instead appointed Bhanu Rajani of the BJP as acting president and subsequently Jyotsna Sagathiya after Rajani contracted Covid-19. Eventually, the general board the civic body was superseded by the government and the sub-divisional magistrate of Khambhaliya was appointed as administrator of the municipality on June 16.

“We fielded good candidates and Khambhaliya MLA Vikram Madam and others worked very hard to ensure that we double our tally,” Yasin Gajjan, president of Devbhumi Dwarka unit of Congress said after his party’s victory.

BJP rebels Jinga Joshi, Heena Kanjariya and Kishor Khandhar’s wife Priya were among those who won on Congress ticket this time.

The BJP conceded that the bickering cost it dear. “We couldn’t do development of Bhanvad town as per expectations of people over the last few years. We made mistakes in selecting candidates in the 2018 general election and those mistakes cost us dear. We respect the mandate of the people,” Khimbhai Jogal, president of Devbhumi Dwarka unit of the BJP, said.

“BJP failed to take action against the eight rebels swiftly. It could not get much work done under the administrator’s rule even as grants worth Rs 14 crore for various projects remained unutilised. Town roads are in extremely bad shape and in such circumstances, there was no reason for the people to vote for us this time,” a party insider said.

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