Urban Gujarat largely brought the BJP back to power as the saffron party won all six municipal corporations, and majority municipalities, but in the rural areas, people voted for change, giving a chance to the Congress which won a majority of district and was leading in the taluka panchayats.
The loudest message came from Saurashtra, where although the BJP won the municipal corporations, it lost nine of 11 district panchayats and majority of taluka panchayats in the 11 districts of the region, counted as a discerning vote in Gujarat.
Even BJP national president Amit Shah who is MLA from the Naranpura constituency of Ahmedabad, was quiet.
The Patidar’s anti-BJP vote combined with general anti-incumbency spoke largely in the district and taluka panchayats, though the warning from urban areas did not seem to be from Patidars, as the party won in the Patidar constituencies, though its wardwise tally compared to 2010 in the municipal corporations, was low.
That the party was smarting from the Patidar unrest was clear in the way it keenly watched the wards dominated by Patels, and quickly announced its victory in the wards covered by the Ghatlodiya assembly constituency represented by Anandiben, a Patidar stronghold.
Another carefully scripted detail and the first official release sent out by the state information bureau even before all votes were declared, was the results of Viramgam municipality, the town which is home to Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) leader Hardik Patel. Ward 2 where he lives and where his sister and mother were detained while protesting Anandiben’s rally, was won by the BJP—was the message the government sent out.
The 36-seat Viramgam municipality saw BJP better it’s tally of 16 seats clocked in 2010. Congress which was fighting polls on the party symbol for the first time in a decade won at least 11 seats. Hardik and other PAAS leaders are in jail facing sedition charges.
In an official release, Anandiben described the verdict as the people’s faith in the “development politics of the BJP”
seen as the semi-finals before the 2017 assembly elections, after the exit of prime minister Narendra Modi from Gujarat, these elections were fought under two new situations — re-drawn wards of municipal corporations and towns and reservation of 50 per cent of the seats in municipal corporations and municipalities for women.
Rajkot Municipal Corporation saw the closest fight with the BJP winning 38 and the Congress winning 34 wards, though the district panchayat went entirely to the Congress. The surprise in RMC here was the win by one Muslim candidate on a BJP ticket, Sofia Dal, an OBC, even as city voters rejected all other BJP Muslim candidates.
The BJP won at least 41 of 56 municipalities across 29 districts while the Congress won 9 in the districts of Amreli, Mehsana, Patan and Vadodara and the contest was close in Anand, Morbi and Surendranagar districts.
Congress was winning 19 of the 31 district panchayats, covering huge ground by winning 568 seats, while BJP trailed with 360 seats (final figures are yet to come). In October 2010 elections, BJP had won over 540 seats, with 240-odd seats going to the Congress.
In talukas, trends indicated a Congress win on 2455 seats, while BJP won 1953 seats.
In 2010 taluka panchayat polls, BJP had 2460 seats, while Congress won only 1428 seats.
Anandiben who arrived Wednesday evening at the party headquarter, told workers, “It is good to be modest after a victory, but not to be anxious about the defeat”. To the public, her apology was that the party had very little time to campaign. She said, “We got very less time to fight for these polls, for corporations we got only 6 days for campaigning. In the districts, we got only 13 days. As far as the district and taluka panchayats are concerned we have got a slightly low score which is a fact. We will accept the results which are in front of us as the choice of the voters who have voted.”
A senior BJP leader said on the condition of anonymity, “It is too early to say anything at this point of time. We cannot blame any one reason for less-than-expected results in the rural areas. We will sit down and analyse the factors that attributed to the swing of votes.”
Elections to six of eight municipal corporations were held on November 22 and to 31 district panchayats, 56 municipalities and 230 taluka panchayats, on November 29, after an intense legal battle in the Gujarat high court where the state government had tried to resist holding elections in time, on the ground that the situation was not conducive for “free and fair elections”.
However, the Congress too tread carefully on its victory. Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee chief Bharatsinh Solanki said,
“We have won panchayat polls in areas covering 105 assembly seats that form 70 per cent of the state’s electorates” said Solanki.
“This indicates the political change to come in the state in December 2017 assembly elections”, he said.