Updated: March 3, 2021 4:54:13 am
Days after its impressive win in elections to six municipal corporations in Gujarat, the BJP Tuesday swept the elections to district panchayats, taluka panchayats and municipalities, routing the Congress.
Such was the mandate for the BJP – it claimed victory in all 31 district panchayats, around 200 of 231 taluka panchayats and 75 of 81 municipalities which went to polls — that the Congress, which had made significant gains in 2015 when elections to these local bodies were held in the backdrop of the Patidar quota agitation, was washed out even in its bastions.
Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) chief Amit Chavda and Leader of Opposition in Assembly Paresh Dhanani resigned from their posts, taking responsibility for the debacle. It has set off alarm bells in the party given that the state Assembly elections are due next year.
A Congress MLA and family members of five other party MLAs were among those defeated.
For Cong, 2022 a worry
A YEAR to the Assembly polls, the Congress is losing time to get its house together, with Tuesday’s results further hurting the party. The gains from the quota agitation have evaporated.
According to the results announced by the State Election Commission, the BJP won 800 of the 980 seats in 31 district panchayats while the Congress managed 169 seats.
In the taluka panchayats, the BJP won 3351 of 4774 seats against 1252 of the Congress. In the municipalities, the BJP took 2085 of the 2720 seats while 388 seats went to the Congress.
Taking to Twitter, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said: “Results of the Nagar Palika, Taluka Panchayat and District Panchayat polls across Gujarat give a crystal clear message — Gujarat is firmly with the BJP’s agenda of development and good governance. I bow to the people of Gujarat for the unwavering faith and affection towards BJP.”
Chief Minister Vijay Rupani told party workers: “BJP’s saffron flag now flies high in the elections of panchayats and nagarpalikas in Gujarat. Earlier, there was speculation that the BJP has presence in cities but will not get votes/seats in villages. But we have got even better results than in cities. At some places, we are winning entire nagarpalikas.”
“In 2017, we won (and) formed the government. (We) won all 26 seats in Lok Sabha. In 2020, (we) snatched all eight Assembly seats (in the bypolls) from Congress bastions. And now, in the beginning of 2021, we have won all these district panchayats, taluka panchayats, municipalities and municipal corporations. This (victory) has laid the foundation for the formation of a BJP government in 2022 (after the Assembly elections).”
BJP state president CR Paatil told party workers, celebrating at the party headquarters Shree Kamalam in Gandhinagar, that the voters had “made up for the 2015 losses by paying back with interest”. This time, the BJP parliamentary board had denied tickets to those above the age of 60, family members of party functionaries, and those who had completed three terms in a local body.
In 2015, the Congress had swept the local body polls in rural areas, winning 23 of 31 district panchayats and 146 of 231 taluka panchayats that went to polls.
Congress working president Hardik Patel urged all candidates “who won or lost” to work for the people “from tomorrow itself”. In a statement, he said: “In the coming days, Congress party will become a strong Opposition and take its struggle to the streets, and win back the confidence of the people. From the streets to the Vidhan Sabha, Congress will prove to be a leading Opposition party.”
Hardik Patel, whose outfit Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) led the quota agitation, told The Indian Express recently that the state Congress leadership was “not utilising” him enough. He also said that the leadership had to accept the fact that the local body elections in 2015 were won because of the agitation.
Leader of Opposition Paresh Dhanani, who resigned after the rout, told The Indian Express that Gujarat needs a new leadership and, therefore, he has resigned as leader of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP).
“I had tendered my resignation after the 26-0 result in favour of the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. I had repeated my request to the party leadership after we lost the recent Assembly bypolls 0-8 despite working hard. Today, we have lost the district panchayat election to BJP 31-0 and this is clearly an indication that we have failed to take the important issues to the new generation. Hence, the request again to relieve me from the position,” Dhanani said.
On what changed the fortunes of the party in the five years since 2015, Dhanani said that in 2007 and 2012 elections, the Mahagujarat Janata Party of Gordhan Zadaphia and Gujarat Parivartan Party of Keshubhai Patel had split Opposition votes.
“But in 2015 and 2017, there were no such outfits in the fray and, therefore, Opposition votes went the Congress way and we did well. Now again, the ruling party has managed to fragment Opposition votes and we have suffered,” he said.
The AAP and AIMIM contested the local body polls for the first time. While AAP made inroads in Saurashtra and some other parts of the state, AIMIM emerged as the main Opposition party in the Modasa municipality of Aravalli district by winning nine seats. AIMIM also won seven seats in Godhra municipality of Panchamahals district and one in the Bharuch municipality.
— With Gopal Kateshiya and Vaibhav Jha
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