Ahmedabad: The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) may have been routed in rural areas in the local body elections in Gujarat, but in a silver lining over 200 party candidates from the Muslim community have won elections to municipalities, district panchayats and taluka panchayats.
“The total tally of the winners will go further up because we are yet to receive reports from all talukas and districts from where we had fielded Muslim candidates,” Sufi Mahbub Ali Chisty, chief of Gujarat BJP Minority Morcha told The Indian Express.
The BJP had fielded around 450 Muslim candidates in the local body polls. In 2010, as many as 160 Muslim candidates had won on the party tickets.
Chisty claimed that BJP’s Muslim candidates have been able to make a “big political dent” by wresting several seats, especially in rural areas, earlier represented by Muslims from Congress.
In Anand District’s Umreth Nagarapalika, for instance, all BJP candidates – three Muslims and five Hindus – secured victories in War No. 2 and 7, defeating Congress-NCP panel.
Aminabibi Malek, who was elected from Ward No 2 and has been with BJP for past 15 years, said, “Muslims in Umreth have voted BJP for development.”
Asif Zakaria (48), a share-broker who won from Gondal Nagarpalika in Rajkot district, said,
“Almost 60-65 per cent of Muslims voted for BJP candidates in Gondal because they benefited a lot in business and other activities in Gondal and nearby areas.”
“Congress only used Muslims as a vote-bank and gave us nothing in return. Congress promises of sops for Muslims were only on paper and never translated into action. This, in fact, created a wrong impression among the majority community about so-called Muslim appeasement by Congress. So, while Congress did not give any benefits, they also lost the support of Hindu liberals,” Zakaria said.
Chisty added, “Majority of Muslims were not comfortable with BJP due to various reasons, and voted for Congress only. This situation was exploited by Congress leaders who neither gave them any political benefit nor any share in development. But, the political scene has undergone a complete change in Gujarat with the emergence of a strong educated middle class, some with political ambitions. This was driving the Muslim youth, particularly in rural and semi-urban areas, to BJP to fulfill their political ambitions and work for the development of the community.”
Just 18 months after the BJP swept all 26 Lok Sabha seats in Gujarat, the party has now been able to just manage to retain its urban sway, losing the rural swipe to the Congress, according to the final results to 323 local government bodies that were declared on Thursday.
Anandiben Patel’s litmus test as a chief minister, in what was termed a semi-final before the next assembly polls in 2017, turned out to be a disappointment for the Bharatiya Janata Party.
The ruling BJP retained control of municipal corporations in all the six major cities of Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Rajkot, Surat, Jamnagar and Bhavnagar, but its victory margins fell.
The BJP bagged the 72-member Rajkot Corporation but managed only 38 seats as against 34 of the Congress. In 2010, the BJP won 49 and the Congress got 10 in the then house of 59.
In all, out of the total 572 corporation seats, the Congress won 175 seats in 2015, up from 103 in 2010.
Within cities, the BJP bagged 42 municipalites and the Congress 10, out of a total of 56 municipalities, leaving four for others. This is also five less than the earlier figure of 47.
The BJP lost its grip in the rural and semi-urban areas. The BJP government, which earlier controlled 30 of 31 district panchayats, retained only six. The Congress bagged 21 and the other parties four.
As for the 230 taluka (tehsil) panchayats out of 190 the BJP had earlier, the party won 73 and the Congress in 132.
The most interesting aspect was that the Congress bagged the taluka and district panchayats of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s native village of Vadnagar, Chief Minister Anandiben Patel’s Visnagar and the No.2 in her cabinet, Health Minister Nitin Patel’s Kadi, which all figure in Mehsana district in north Gujarat, from where the Patidar reservation agitation began.
(With inputs from IANS)