The Jhulto Pul suspension bridge tragedy which left 135 people dead in Morbi town on October 30 seems to have little effect on the outcome of the Assembly election for the seat, as early trends suggest the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is set to wrest the Morbi Assembly constituency back from Congress after five years.
Halfway through the counting of votes, BJP’s Kantilal Amrutiya was leading his Congress rival Jayantilal Patel by 22,489 votes in the Morbi Assembly seat. A five-time MLA, Amrutiya had built his campaign this election around his rescue act at the Jhulto Pul collapse site and videos of him swimming in the river had gone viral. At the end of the Round-11 of vote counting, Amrutiya had polled 47,922 votes while Jayatilala had got 25,433 votes.
The suspension bridge was owned by the BJP-ruled Morbi municipality, which had given it away to Ajanta Manufacturing Private Limited of the Oreva Group, for operations and maintenance. The Congress and AAP had targeted the BJP government over the incident, accusing it of negligence and claiming that the fact a bridge could not be properly maintained, exposed the development claims of the ruling party.
In 2017, Amrutiya had narrowly lost to Brijesh Merja of the Congress. However, Merja defected to the BJP in 2020, won a subsequent bypoll as a BJP nominee and became a minister in the outgoing government of Bhupendra Patel. The BJP, though, denied the ticket to Merja to seek reelection and instead fielded Amrutiya, who had won from this seat five consecutive times, in 1995, 1998, 2002, 2007 and 2012.
In neighbouring Tanakara Assembly seat, which also includes parts of Morbi town, BJP’s Durlabhji Dethariya was leading sitting Congress MLA Lalit Kagathara by 10,266 votes at the end of Round-9 of counting, with 12 more rounds of counting to go. Dethariya has so far polled 43,082 votes while Kagathara, who is the working president of Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee, has got 32,816 votes.
In Wankaner, the third Assembly seat in Morbi district and which has been a traditional Congress bastion, BJP’s Jitu Somani was leading sitting Congress MLA Mahmadjavid Pirzada by 4,931 votes at the end of Round-9 of counting. Somani had garnered 38,534 votes while Pirzada had polled 33,603 votes. Counting of 13 more rounds remained.