The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party scored a landslide victory in Junagadh Municipal Corporation election on Tuesday and bucked the trend to retain power in the civic body by winning 54 out of 60 seats. The opposition Congress which was vying to unseat the BJP was decimated as it barely managed win one seat even as Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) won four.
In the final result declared after counting of votes for 59 seats, the BJP secured 54 seats. The NCP got four while Congress tally was reduced to just one. This is a significant shift in favour of the BJP as compared to the 2014 JMC election when the BJP had won 41 seats, Congress 16, Bahujan Samaj Party two and while one seat had gone to an Independent.
By succeeding to retain power, the BJP also bucked the trend of the saffron party and the Congress winning alternately in the Junagadh civic body. Congress was in power when Junagadh municipality was accorded status of a municipal corporation in 2001-2002. Then the BJP captured power in the maiden JMC election conducted in 2004. However, Congress wrested back control of the civic body by winning the 2009 poll. The BJP bounced back again in 2014 and defeated Congress.
Polling for 56 seats of the JMC was conducted on July 21 and a moderate 49.68 per cent turnout was recorded on a rainy Sunday. There are 15 election wards and total 60 seats in general board of JMC. However, three BJP candidates from Ward No.3 were declared winners unopposed after all four rival Congress candidates withdrew their candidature.
Nomination papers of the fourth BJP candidate from this ward were rejected for having more than two children. Since no candidate was left in fray, election for this one particular seat was deferred. Therefore, polling was conducted for only 56 seats.
While the BJP got a head-start by winning three seats uncontested, Congress struggled throughout the election. Besides its four candidates in Ward No.3, two more party nominees —one each from Ward No.9 and 13— also withdrew their candidature.
Furthermore, four other candidates extended support to the BJP and three of them even joined the BJP. One Congress candidate had failed to submit nomination papers on time, while nomination papers of one more Congress nominee were rejected after it emerged during scrutiny that his papers had not been signed by proposer. Thus, Congress was effectively contesting only 49 out of 60 seats.
Adding to all this was the resignation of Vinu Amipara as president of Congress’ Junagadh city unit and his subsequent defection to the BJP. The party had also created controversy when it denied ticket to Lakhabhai Parmar, sitting Congress corporator who was mayor of Junagadh when the party was in power five years ago and other senior Congress leader Adreman Panja and prominent party worker Ahsraf Thaim’s wife Shenila.
Both Panja and Shenial were sitting Congress corporators in Ward No.8 and after Congress denied them tickets, they defected to NCP and eventually emerged victorious on Tuesday. The NCP also won the remaining two seats in that ward.
In the results declared on Tuesday, BJP swept Ward 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15. The only wards where it could not complete a clean sweep was War No.8, where all the four seats were won by the NCP, and Ward 4 where Manjula Parsana of Congress managed to stood her ground.
Incumbent mayor Adhyashakti Majmudar, former MLA Mahendra Mashru, senior corporators Girish Kotecha Sanjay Koradiya and Junagadh city unit president Shashikant Bhimani were among BJP winners. On the other hand, leader of Opposition, Satish Virda alias Satish Captain failed to retain his long-term constituency in Ward No.15. Parmar, a veteran of nine elections who was contesting as an Independent also lost.
The victory comes just a couple of months after the BJP managed to retain Junagadh Lok Sabha seat even though it had lost Junagadh Assembly constituency in December, 2017.
Through a tweet, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted that the results underlined that people had showed faith in “politics of development,” one more time. “People have showered their blessings on BJP candidates in the general election to Junagadh Municipal Corporation and everywhere in bypoll to district and taluka panchayats in Gujarat. People of Gujarat have always shown faith in ‘politics of development,” the PM said.
Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and Gujarat BJP president Jitu Vaghani are likely to visit Junagadh on Wednesday to meet party workers after the victory. Gujarat BJP chief Jitu Vaghani told media persons in Gandhinagar that there was a pro-incumbency wave in Junagadh.
Gordhan Zadaphia, a senior BJP leader who, along with Nitin Bhardwaj, was BJP in-charge for JMC election said people of Gujarat believed BJP can deliver goods and therefore showed their faith in the saffron party.
“We were expecting 50 plus seats from Day One because Congress was dismantled prior to the election and we could manage to reach out to voters. Particularly, the team of the party has played a great role. This is a landslide victory, the greatest in Junagadh.. The reason is not only that Congress was weak but also that people do expect BJP, and not Congress, to deliver things.
People had a very bad experience during Congress rule from 2009 to 2014. Due to anti-incumbency, we won in 2014. But this time round, it is a pro-development, pro-incumbency mandate. There were allegations of corruptions but they were political. People didn’t feel that. It was a perception created. Perceptions and reality are different. So the acceptance of BJP was across and we could manage dissatisfaction within the party well,” Zadaphia told The Indian Express.
BJP spokesman Raju Dhruv on the other hand said some big projects also swung the public mood. “The Junagadh ropeway project got a push after Narendra Modi became Prime Minister. This project is central to further development of Junagadh. Similarly, during the BJP rule, Junagadh got Narsinh Mehta University and the coastal highway from Bhavnagar to Dwarka, which passes through Junagadh also, is being widened to four-lanes. The Prime Minister had indicated his partiality by addressing his election rally in Junagadh in the recent Lok Sabha election,” said Dhruv.
Congress meanwhile conceded defeat and said that it had failed at election management. “This is a big setback for the party and we can blame ourselves only. Why will people trust the political party whose leaders and workers would be fighting among themselves till the very last moment?
Nobody loved the BJP there. But we failed to give people an alternative. We could not prevent in-fighting. We failed to understand the BJP strategy of manipulating our candidates. Plus, there were controversies in selection of Congress candidates. People left Congress on the last day (of filing nominations), joined the NCP and eventually won. We could have prevented this and those four could have won for Congress. Basically, we have failed at election management,” Manish Doshi, spokesperson for Gujarat Congress said.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines