Congress grabs rural Gujarat in local body polls

Congress grabs rural Gujarat in local body polls

In a setback to the BJP in Gujarat, the Congress has won in 22 of the 31 district panchayats and 126 of the 230 taluka panchayats in the recently concluded local body polls, the results for which were announced on Wednesday.

The BJP ruled in 30 of the 31 district panchayats and 194 of 230 taluka panchayats in the outgoing local government bodies. This time, the saffron outfit managed to win in six district panchayats and 65 taluka panchayats. Polls were not held in 17 taluka panchayat seats under Banaskantha district as their term is yet to end.

The BJP, however, retained control in all the six municipal corporations of major cities–Ahmedabad, Surat, Baroda, Jamnagar, Bhavnagar and Rajkot–and also won 42 of the 56 municipalities in smaller towns.

The Congress was able to win only in nine municipalities, with four going to independents and one ending in a tie. In Unjha town of north Gujarat, all 36 seats were won by independents.

The Congress failed to make a big dent in BJP’s urban bastion. “The deletion of names of over a lakh voters from electoral rolls in corporation elections appears to have its impact on the results,” said Solanki. The BJP also lost in its strongholds like Mehsana as the Congress wrested Ahmedabad district panchayat from the BJP after 10 years.
Patel impact

The Patels, who launched an agitation since July demanding reservation, appear to have split the state electorate vertically into urban and rural voters. While urban Gujarat seemed untouched by the agitation, their fellow citizens in rural areas have shifted their allegiance to the Congress.

BJP spokesperson I K Jadeja hinted at the impact of the Patel stir, describing it as “vote bank politics of Congress aimed at fomenting discontent and social engineering.” But in a twist, the BJP won in the Viramgam municipality, home of Patel stir leader Hardik Patel.

“We have done relatively better compared to what our situation was in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls where we were decimated. We will work harder to reach out with our plans in urban areas,” said Gujarat Congress chief Bharatsinh Solanki.

While addressing BJP workers here, Chief Minister Anandiben Patel said: “We honour this result and congratulate the citizens of Gujarat. It is time for all of us to work harder for the future.”

The chief minister was perhaps hinting at the need for the BJP to get its act together before the 2017 Assembly polls.

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