Congress’s gain in the elections to the Surat Municipal Corporation appeared due to the Patidar votes as out of the 36 seats that the party won, 23 were from the wards dominated by the community. BJP won 80 of the total 116 seats.
In 2010, Congress had only 14 corporators in the city, but this year it made inroads among the Patidar voters, who are upset with BJP over the quota issue.
Hardik Patel, convener of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti, is lodged in Surat’s Lajpore jail for alleged sedition and Congress encashed sympathy for him using his photographs during campaigning. Earlier, Congress had no Assembly or Corporation seat from the Patidar-dominated areas of the city.
Impact of the quota agitation in Surat could be inferred from the fact that over 4.50 lakh Patidars participated in a rally in the city in August. The agitation also, it is said, had the tacit backing of diamond industry leaders, who have been traditionally with BJP.
In the civic elections, BJP and Congress leaders considered the effect of the quota stir and gave most tickets the Patidars in the areas dominated by the community. The Patidars are dominant in 11 wards of the SMC.
The Patidar-dominated wards where the entire panel of Congress candidates won are Ward No. 3 (Nana Varachha, Sarthana and Simada), Ward No. 4 (Kapodara), Ward No. 5 (Phoolpada ), Ward No. 15 (Puna East) and Ward No. 16 (Puna West). These areas were badly affected in the August violence.
Congress’s Ashok Jirawala, a Patidar who won from Ward No 3, said, “This is the victory of Congress and the Patidars. Surat police had beaten up Patidar youths and even arrested hundreds of them, but not a single leader from BJP came forward to support the Patidars and made representations to police. The Patidars are angry… the Patidar wards in Surat were once a strong belt of BJP and now it has changed into a Congress dominated areas. Effect of this voting pattern will also be seen in the next Assembly election in 2017.”