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.
Home Minister Rajnikant Patel’s hometown of Himmatnagar as well as the bastions of many other ministers also went the Congress way.
Karnali village in Vadodara district, which was adopted by union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley who is a Rajya Sabha member from Gujarat, also saw the BJP lose out.
Both the BJP and the Congress have acknowledged that the election results showed a distinct divide between urban and rural voters.
BJP spokesperson I.K. Jadeja attributed the reverses in the districts and taluka panchayats to the Congress “disinformation campaign” aimed at fomenting discontent among villagers.
On the other hand, Congress spokesman Manish Doshi said the people in villages rejected the BJP because they were “able to see through their gross neglect and hype politics”.
Coming against the backdrop of the Patidar agitation against the ruling BJP, the results have caused considerable concern for the state BJP leadership.
It also marks a comeback for the Congress which was rendered almost comatose in the LOk Sabha polls. These election results have pumped new life into the Congress.
The BJP leaders made cautious comments, with Chief Minister Anandiben Patel and state BJP chief R.C. Fardu saying there would be a serious analysis of the results and redressal measures would be taken to ensure that the party bounces back with renewed vigour.
They said lack of time for campaigning was to blame for the not very favourable results.
There were celebrations in the Congress camp.
State unit president Bharatsinh Solanki said the votes polled by the Congress were higher than that of the BJP despite their retaining control of the municipal corporations.
“We will strive harder to better our performance,” he added.