Updated: February 24, 2021 11:02:35 am
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) returned with a higher seat share than 2015 to all six municipal corporations, even as the urban voters gave the Congress a rap on the knuckles, leaving it with no seat in the Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) where debutant Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) came second with 27 of 120 seats.
The AAP will now sit in the opposition in SMC, a reality that seemed to have not gone down well with the BJP.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP national president JP Nadda took to Twitter to thank the voters. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also congratulated Gujarat’s voters on Twitter.
In Ahmedabad’s two minority dominated wards of Jamalpur and Maktampura, first time contestant All-India Majlis e-Ittehadul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) won seven of the eight seats held by the Congress. In another first, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) won three seats in the 64-seat Jamnagar Municipal Corporation.
The AAP, contesting for the first time in Gujarat, had put up 469 candidates in the 576 seats of the six municipal corporations of Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat, Rajkot, Jamnagar and Bhavnagar, while AIMIM had 21 candidates in Ahmedabad. BJP’s seat tally went up from 397 seats in 2015 to 483 (till the time of printing) while the Congress went down from 161in 2015 to 55.
Addressing a victory rally at the party office in Ahmedabad, BJP state president CR Paatil expressed “regret” on AAP’s entry in his home turf and said, “We were expecting to win 120 out of 120 in Surat. Congress had 36 seats last time and lost all. But somewhere we got deceived… It is very painful for us. But we will try to find a way out…,” Paatil said.
“AAP has won in Surat by giving false promises, by luring and misleading voters. But a victory is a victory. And a defeat is a defeat. We are accepting it that we could not win against them (AAP)…,” he added.
Paatil also said that in Ahmedabad, too, the party made some mistake where it could win just 159 seats against the target of 168.
In a release from Delhi, AAP quoted Kejriwal as saying that the people of Gujarat “have voted for politics of work as they were fed up by the politics of BJP and Congress. The people of Gujarat wanted an alternative and AAP has emerged as the key alternative to the present parties. Now the upcoming assembly election will be only between Aam Aadmi Party and BJP”.
Senior Aam Aadmi Party leader and chief spokesperson Shri Saurabh Bhardwaj said that in its first election in Gujarat, the AAP has “breached Modi’s citadel”. He said that the citizens of Gujarat are looking for an alternative to the BJP and AAP has emerged as their first choice. He said that “till Congress is fully over, BJP governments will continue to be formed because Congress is the oxygen of BJP”.
Addressing the rally, his first after testing negative for Covid-19 Sunday, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said that Tuesday was the “worst day” for Gujarat Congress ever.
He said that the voters had beaten Congress everywhere with “beyrehmi” (mercilessly) and rejected it even as an Opposition party. “In Rajkot, it has won only one ward. In Surat, it has not got even a single seat. In Ahmedabad too, it has been wiped out. The root cause of it is Congress’s negative politics,” Rupani said.
“In Rajkot, we have a tradition of giving proper representation to Congress in the Standing (committee). Now, there is no space left even for that…,” Rupani said.
In Surat, the Congress probably paid for not mending fences with the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), which had been its force multiplier in 2015 when elections were held in the backdrop of the quota agitation led by Hardik Patel.
Hardik, now the working president of the Gujarat Pradesh Congress, told The Indian Express, “It is very clear from the way people have voted that they want a strong opposition, and that is where the Congress has failed to become one. Look at Surat, Rajkot where in six wards AAP is at number two. Now it is even more important for the Congress to come out on the streets and prove itself a strong opposition…”
In Surat, AAP gave tickets to Patidars and got PAAS’ support, placing the newcomer at an advantage.
The PAAS which was not happy with the ticket distribution by the Congress withdrew three of its candidates from the Surat race in protest. The only major rally of the Congress to be led by its state chief Amit Chavda and AICC leaders Biswaranjan Mohanty and Rajeev Satav on the last day of campaigning was cancelled after PAAS sent out feelers that it would disrupt the rally. On the other hand, AAP leader and Delhi deputy CM Manish Sisodia took out a grand rally in Surat.
On Tuesday, as the results came in, Surat Congress city chief Babubhai Rayka stepped down owning moral responsibility. For the BJP, the victory marks a success of its experiment in a harsher ticket distribution process where it decided not to have those above 60 years of age, those who had done three terms and family members of party functionaries, contest the elections. Under Paatil, the page pramukh network was also strengthened.
Calling the victory “very special”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, “For a party that is serving in a state for over two decades to record such a phenomenal win is noteworthy. It is heartening to see widespread support from all sections of society, particularly the youth of Gujarat towards BJP.”
Appreciating the efforts of the party karyakarta, he said, “The Gujarat government’s pro-people policies have positively impacted the entire state.”
Union Home Minister Amit Shah took to Twitter to congratulate the people of Gujarat for “reinstilling their faith in the BJP’s symbol of development and progress”. While also congratulating Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel and party’s state president CR Paatil, Shah said, “The central and state governments have been working for the welfare of the poor, backward, and deprived sections under the leadership of prime minister Narendra Modi.” He said this huge victory was owing to the “niti” (policies) and “niyat” (intent) of the BJP.
The elections to six of the eight municipal corporations were scheduled in December but had to be postponed on account of the Covid pandemic. The other two municipal corporations Junagadh and Gandhinagar have still not completed their five year terms.
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