Why Gujarat civic body poll results don’t augur well for PM Modi or BJP

Gujarat municipal and local bodies poll results should send alarm bells clanging in the BJP; more so for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The outcome has the potential to thwart his much-hyped Gujarat story, which in turn could affect his personal standing.

Sanjay Singh December 03, 2015 19:18:59 IST

Gujarat municipal and local bodies poll results should send alarm bells clanging in the BJP; more so for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The outcome has the potential to thwart his much-hyped Gujarat story, which in turn could affect his personal standing.

The results should worry BJP president Amit Shah and Chief Minister Anandiben Patel as well. If the trend maintains until such time that the Gujarat assembly elections are held in 2017, the BJP may lose its biggest stronghold in India. That’s something Modi can ill afford if he wishes to rule the country beyond 2019.

Why Gujarat civic body poll results dont augur well for PM Modi or BJP

Anandiben and Narendra Modi in file photos. Getty Images/ Ibnlive

It’s not without reason, as Firstpost gathered after talking to some BJP leaders within and outside the state, that the clamour for a change of leadership in Gujarat has begun to gain ground. Following Modi's rule in the state, Gujarat is clearly disinclined to accept BJP as its favoured party. A senior state BJP leader told Firstpost, “The state had become so used to Modiji that it is finding it difficult to reconcile with any other leader. He is aware of the ground situation here and we hope he will take corrective measures required.”

Though the BJP has retained all six municipal corporations — Ahmedabad, Surat, Bhavnagar, Vadodara, Rajkot and Jamnagar — and most municipalities — 40 out of 56 to the BJP and 8 to the Congress so far — it is the zilla and taluka panchayats in rural areas where the party has suffered a massive blow. At the time this report was filed the Congress had won 21 of 31 zilla panchayats and BJP had gained only six. Counting in four others was in progress. In the last local bodies elections, the BJP had won 30 out of 31 zilla panchayats.

The Congress has reaped such rewards in Gujarat after a significant lull and has valid reasons to be jubilant. There are many who see these results as revival for the Congress. Out of 230 taluka panchayats, the Congress had won 116 and the BJP 63. Counting was in progress for the remaining talukas.

This result is also being portrayed as a rural-urban divide of sorts – urban areas voting decisively for the BJP and rural areas voting for the Congress. But what should worry the BJP more is that even in urban areas the Congress has seen gains and the margin of victory for the BJP has reduced. Rajkot for instance was close – 38 for the BJP and 34 for the Congress.

BJP can take solace from a win in village Viramgam, home of Patidar agitation leader Hardik Patel. Notwithstanding the fact that the BJP won in Hardik’s home turf, the Patidar or Patel movement has had its impact on the pattern of voting and final results. This movement has already taken some of the sheen off the Gujarat story. But the BJP’s loss in rural areas spans the state, and is not just limited to Patel strongholds.

2015 has been a bad year for Modi and the BJP. The first blow came from Delhi, then a decisive defeat in Bihar and now losses in Gujarat. Unlike Delhi and Bihar, Modi, Shah and the rest of the ruling party leaders will be hard pressed to find excuses to explain away the Congress’s rise in Gujarat.

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