March 3, 2021 4:04:12 am
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept all the 12 district panchayats, 71 out of 89 taluka panchayats and 31 out of 33 municipalities in Saurashtra-Kutch region in the elections to the local bodies, results of which were announced Tuesday.
The BJP regained the ground it had lost in 2015 local body elections fought in the backdrop of Patidar quota agitation.
The BJP won district panchayats of Rajkot, Jamnagar, Devbhumi Dwarka, Porbandar, Junagadh, Gir Somnath, Amreli, Bhavnagar, Botad, Surendranagar, Morbi and Kutch with handsome margins on Tuesday.
This is a huge comeback for the saffron party which had lost nine of these district panchayats, except Kutch and Porbandar, to Congress in 2015. The BJP had managed to win only two out of 34 seats in Rajkot district panchayat in 2015.
But this time, BJP won 25 seats while reducing Congress to 11 seats. Similar trend was witnessed in other district panchayats in the region.
In 2010, the BJP was in power in undivided district panchayats of Rajkot, Surendranagar, Jamnagar, Porbandar, Junagadh, Amreli, Bhavnagar and Kutch.
But in 2015, the saffron party was voted out of power from all these districts save Porbandar and Kutch. The party had also lost power in newly-created districts of Morbi, Devbhumi Dwarka, Gir Somnath, and Botad districts in Saurashtra. Later on, with the help of independents and defections by Congress members, the BJP had seized control of Gir Somnath, Devbhumi Dwarka, Bhavnagar and Botad district panchayats. The BJP had also turned the tables in Bhavnagar and Botad.
Congress had won most of the 89 taluka panchayats in the region in 2015 but a number of them had slipped out of its hands later on as its sitting members rebelled and joined BJP or pledged their allegiance to the saffron party.
However, on Tuesday, Congress tally reduced to just 12 taluka panchayats.
In fact, Congress could not win any taluka panchayat in five districts—Jamnagar, Porbandar, Botad, Surendranagar and Morbi—as BJP swept all the 28 taluka panchayats in these districts. In Amreli and Bhavnagar, Congress could win only one taluka panchayat each while it won two each in Rajkot, Devbhumi Dwarka, Junagadh, Somnath, and Kutch. Wankaner taluka panchayat in Morbi district, a Congress fortress the BJP had never managed to breach, fell on Tuesday as BJP won 13 seats against Congress’s 11.
Out of the 33 municipalities, Congress could win only two—Sikka in Jamnagar and Maliya in Morbi. In Amreli, where the BJP had suffered defeats in the 2015 local body and 2017 Assembly elections, the party won the district panchayat, nine out of 11 taluka panchayats and all the five municipalities Tuesday.
In Morbi also, another district where the saffron party had faced drubbing in 2015 and 2017 polls, the BJP won the district panchayat, all the five taluka panchayats and two of the three municipalities.
The BJP’s dominance in semi-urban areas was evident from the fact that it won all the seats in Gondal municipality in Rajkot, Morbi municipality in Morbi, and Dhrangadhra and Limbdi municipalities in Surendrangar. These four urban local bodies in Saurashtra will have no Opposition party now.
But Congress also handed over a crushing defeat to the BJP in Maliya municipality in Morbi by sweeping all the 24 seats of the municipality. It also defeated the BJP in Jasdan and Vinchhiya taluka panchayats, the local bodies which form the Assembly constituency of Water Supply Minister Kunvarji Bavaliya in Rajkot district. Bavaliya, a tall Koli leader who had won Assembly election from Jasdan for five times as Congress candidate had defected to the BJP in 2017.
Similarly, BJP failed to gain control of Junagadh district’s Manavadar and Vanthali taluka panchayats which are part of Manavadar Assembly constituency of Fisheries and Tourism Minister Jawahar Chavda who too had defected to the BJP after quitting Congress in 2019.
Apparently riding on the anti-BJP wave created by Patidar quota stir, the Congress’s performance in 2015 local body polls and 2017 Assembly election was its best in Saurashtra since 1995. Congress had almost doubled its tally of Assembly constituencies to 28 in 2017 in Saurashtra, the region which has 48 seats.
But, after Tuesday’s results of local body polls, BJP leaders claimed people had returned to old loyalties. “Due to the Patidar quota stir, people were swayed towards Congress in 2015 and 2017. However, the agitation leaders abandoned people midway and therefore they are returning to their old loyalty towards the BJP and are voting for development agenda of Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” Durlabhji Dethariya, president of Morbi district unit of BJP said.
Hardik Patel, who was convenor of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), the outfit leading the Patidar quota stir, and who was made working president of Congress some time ago, refused to answer questions from The Indian Express on his party’s performance on Tuesday. “I have posted my assessment on my Facebook account. You may like to refer to that,” he said.
His post on Facebook read: “(I) respect the people’s mandate. Congratulations to winners but those who lost need to be disappointed. I request the winners and the losers to start serving people from tomorrow onward itself. In coming days, Congress party would emerge as strong opposition party by taking the fight to the streets and thereby winning people’s confidence…”
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