March 10, 2021 12:27:04 am
The race for the upcoming election for the president and vice-president of the Godhra Municipality is beginning to heat up with the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) trying to woo independents who have traditionally dictated who would form the board in the Municipality in Godhra.
In the recently concluded elections, the BJP and the independents won 18 seats each, while the Congress won one seat and All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) won seven seats in its maiden civic body polls in Gujarat, all Muslims.
While the BJP claims it has support from the independents needed to arrive at the magic figure of 23 in the 44-seat municipality, the independents are banking on the “unconditional” support by the AIMIM.
Sanjay Soni, who won the consecutive term as an independent councillor from Ward 5, told The Indian Express, “We are in talks with AIMIM. The independents will stay together as always. The BJP cannot manage support (this time). We are 18 independents and also the lone Congress councillor ,so we are already 19. AIMIM has seven seats. We will stake claim to form the board.”
The BJP, however, is trying to woo two of its own former members, who broke away and contested as independents, both from Ward 5. One of them is Raju Darji, former president of the municipality and veteran BJP leader, and first-time contestant Sejal Soni, whose father-in-law and two-term vice-president Dipak Soni broke away from the BJP.
Godhra MLA CK Raulji said, “We have already got support from three independents, including two of our own leaders who contested as independents (Darji and Soni). We are also in talks with two Muslim independents and are confident that we will arrive at the 23-seat mark.”
Of the 18 independents, 11 are from the minority community, which dominates the vote share in the municipality. Sanjay Soni says, “This will be our first experience working with the AIMIM… none of us expected them to win seven seats and become the kingmaker… The independents are disillusioned with the BJP… they did not even construct a single road in the town.”
Meanwhile, the BJP has filed a petition against one of the first-time independent woman councillors of Ward 7, seeking her disqualification over violation of two-child policy. Raulji told The Indian Express, “Councillor Femida Javed concealed the fact that she has four biological children.” The petition filed by the local BJP general secretary has claimed that her first child was born in 2009, the second child in 2015, the third child in 2012 and the fourth child in 2019.
If the councillor is disqualified, the total number of members would reduce to 43 and independents to 17 from 18. With BJP claiming support of five independents, the remaining 12 independents, one Congress councillor and seven AIMIM councillors would still make only 20. The election department also has a pending complaint submitted by the Congress during the nomination process, seeking disqualification of two BJP candidates (now elected councillors), who allegedly owed dues to the municipality from their last term.
In 2015, the BJP had won 18 seats and the Congress one, while the independents had 25 seats and went on to form a majority board. But tables turned when Raulji joined the BJP in August 2017 and brought along seven councillors to the party fold, bringing the BJP to power.
Out of total 12 wards in Godhra, five wards in the western part of the city have always elected Muslim councillors. The power equation changed since 2002, when Congress was in power with the help of independents.
The then president of the Godhra Municipality, Mohammed Hussain Kalota, councillors Haji Bilal, Salim Shaikh and Abdul Rahim Dhantia were arrested for setting on fire the S6 coach of the Sabarmati Express. A total of 32 accused have been convicted so far and sentenced to life imprisonment.
In the 2005 civic body polls, of the 42 seats, 23 were won by independents while the BJP won 19 seats. After the 2010 elections when the municipality had 42 seats, the BJP won 18 seats and Congress secured 4. Of the 20 Independent candidates, seven supported the BJP, leading it to power.
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