BJP Leads in Gujarat Civic Polls While Congress Makes Progress

BJP loses its edge in the local civic polls.

4 min read
Hindi Female

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has managed to win the Gujarat civic body elections, but lost as many as 12 municipalities, most of them to the Congress. The result of the election to 2,060 seats in 75 municipalities across Gujarat was declared on Monday, 19 February, and saw the Congress raising it’s tally to 16 municipalities from the eight it previously won.

The civic body polls are bound to be seen as a reflection of voter sentiment displayed during the Assembly elections held only two months ago, in December 2017, where the BJP scraped through, posting its weakest performance in nearly two decades.

However, the BJP continues to treat the election win as a victory. Welcoming the civic body poll verdict, party chief Amit Shah said it was a reflection of the people’s confidence in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s public welfare agenda.

But, the numbers, which reflect a trend that could impact the 2019 election, tell a completely different story.


Crunching the Numbers

The elections were held for 74 municipalities across 28 districts on Saturday, 16 February, with a 64.4 percent voter turnout.

Jaffrabad municipality did not go into polls as the BJP candidate there stood unopposed. Of the 2,060 seats up for grabs, the BJP clinched 1,167 seats whereas the Congress managed to win 630 seats.

The Congress, meanwhile, claimed that it won an additional 24 seats – 16 under the party banner and another eight by independents backed by the party.

In the last civic polls held in 2013, out of 74 municipalities the BJP had won 47. The Congress only managed to win eight. The result was the same for the BJP this time as well, but the Congress has made a marked improvement.

At the same time, the BJP clinched 1,144 seats back in 2013, while the Congress managed 449 seats of the total 1,905 seaats.

The seat share percentage for this year’s civic polls show BJP with 57 percent (1,195 seats) and the Congress with 30 percent (630 seats) of the total 2,060 seats.

Strongholds Lost and Gained

The Congress managed to clinch Dhoraji and Bhayavadar in Rajkot, Salya in Dwarka, Rajula in Amreli, and Manavadar in Junagadh district from the BJP’s grasp. Meanwhile, the BJP managed to oust Congress from Chalala in Amreli and Dhrol in Jamnagar.

In all, the BJP managed to retain 22 municipalities, wrested two from the Congress but lost five to the Grand Old Party. The Congress, meanwhile, retained power in three nagarpalikas, losing two to the BJP while clinching five from the saffron party. The Congress also increased its tally of seats in Dwarka Municipality and Rapara municipality in Kutch.

The BJP won 27 of the 28 seats in Vadnagar municipality, the hometown of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with the Congress managing only one seat. Interestingly, the BJP had lost the Assembly elections of 2017 from Vadnagar in the wake of the Patel quota stir.

Similarly, the Congress has lost all the three municipalities in Mehsana district this time, but lost Kheralu and Vijapur to the BJP in the Patidar hub of north Gujarat.

Three municipalities saw a tie between the Congress and the BJP. These are Gadhiyar, Mangrol and Pardi. In all, 10 municipalities saw a hung verdict as there was no clear mandate going to any party, and the majority of the seats were won by independent candidates. In a week’s time, both the major parties will make overtures to the independents to form the governing body in these nagarpalikas.


The Ghost of Assembly Polls

BJP loses its edge in the local civic polls.
Narendra Modi, then Chief Minister of Gujarat, addressing a rally prior to the 2014 elections. 
(Photo: Reuters)

The Gujarat Assembly elections had rattled the BJP as the saffron party managed to cross the halfway mark with seven seats. The political turmoil that followed with a rift emerging between the state’s top leaders, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel was all too evident.

Professor of Sociology at Gujarat University Gaurang Jani said the BJP has lost ground in rural Gujarat. “The Assembly elections itself created an anti-BJP rhetoric, especially in rural Gujarat. This rhetoric has spilled over on these local body elections. The Congress knows this and has managed to consolidate its position, especially in Saurashtra. The last 15 years of ignominy has ended for the Congress. Besides, anti-incumbency is still rife in Gujarat especially in local governing bodies where the BJP is not addressing civic issues diligently,” he said.


Modi Factor Not Enough

Jani further asserted on the waning Modi factor in Gujarat. “Although PM Narendra Modi is trump card for the BJP, the party has not fielded a strong leader at the grassroots level. This the reason why the BJP dropped from 59 municipalities to 47, simply because they do not have a second or third line of leadership at the ground level. Besides, there is growing resentment among farmers, Dalits, and the OBCs against the ruling BJP.”

With this trend continuing, the chances of the BJP repeating its 2014 general election clean sweep looks quite daunting in 2019. The party had to employ all possible ploys only to cross the halfway mark with a narrow margin in the recently-concluded Assembly elections despite emotional campaigning by Narendra Modi.

With the BJP’s bastion looking weak, the top brass of the party needs to find a special formula to continue its reign in the country.

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Topics:  BJP   Congress   Anandiben Patel 

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