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Congress's Gandhinagar win a dent in Modi's invincibility?

Friday April 22, 2011 06:07:43 PM, R.K. Misra, IANS

Gandhinagar: It is not so much the Congress's victory as the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) defeat in Gandhinagar that has roiled the political pot in this high profile election to the smallest municipal corporation in Narendra Modi's Gujarat.

In the first-ever elections to the civic body in this state capital, the Congress narrowly edged out the BJP from gaining power, securing 18 of the 33 seats, leaving the ruling party to pick up the remaining 15. The results were declared Thursday.

Starved of a win for long in the face of a relentlessly aggressive Modi-led BJP picking up local self government bodies at will, the Congress is ecstatic. The BJP controls 22 of the 24 district panchayats and six of the eight municipal corporations in the state. In 2007, the BJP bagged 117 of the 182 seats in the Gujarat Vidhan Sabha elections with Congress getting 62 and three independents bringing up the rear.

Arjun Modvadia, the newly-appointed president of Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee who replaced Siddharta Patel, is emphatic that not only is it a political victory but a moral victory as well. "It is a clear warning for both L.K. Advani, the MP from here as well as for chief minister Modi of the things to follow next year when the Vidhan Sabha elections are due," he said.

Modvadia has cause to be happy because this is the first election fought by his party after he took over as the state unit chief. Patel quit after the Congress was routed in the elections to the six key municipal corporations of Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Rajkot, Surat, Jamnagar and Bhavnagar.

Though Gandhinagar city is considered a traditional stronghold of Congress with the bureaucrats and retired government employees making up a fair chunk of the 1.33 lakh voters, BJP was not taking any chances and had pressed into service I.K. Jadeja, the former minister of urban development as well as Shankar Chowdhary, the Radhanpur MLA, to oversee the civic elections of the state capital.

Former BJP chief minister Suresh Mehta, who quit the party before the 2007 state assembly polls, describes the result as a reflection of Modi's waning popularity. "This has to be viewed in the larger perspective because despite the state government's pay hike as per the Sixth Pay Commission, the voters were not enthused to vote for the BJP. This clearly signifies that Modi is losing his popularity," Mehta observed.

Congress leader Narhari Amin carried the point further saying that government employees, particularly the Class 3 and Class 4 employees, have contributed majorly to the party's victory. Both leaders say that the result will have an impact on the politics of the state.

BJP spokesperson I.K. Jadeja, who was also responsible for the Gandhinagar civic election, admitted that Gandhinagar had been a Congress stronghold. "We had a small margin in assembly elections while we were trailing in the Lok Sabha so far as Gandhinagar city area is concerned and it was only obvious that the contest was to be close here," Jadeja said.

"We have lost the Corporation only for a ward and now we shall analyze the results," he added.

Jadeja has a point. Interestingly, it was Ward No.4, comprising Sectors 19, 20 and 21, which houses the chief minister's residence as well as that of his cabinet ministers and key bureaucrats which clinched the election for the Congress. Former BJP president of Gandhinagar unit Pravin Patel who was denied a ticket by the party had rebelled and contested on a Congress ticket. It was the panel led by Patel comprising a total of three members from Ward No.4, which sealed BJP's fate in this crucial election. The margin of Congress victory was three seats.

However, the fact remains that the Gandhinagar civic poll results have somewhat dented the armour of invincibility that has become the hallmark of electoral results for the BJP under Modi in Gujarat. Furthermore, it has boosted the drooping morale of the Congress and its workers.

All this in a state where elections are due to the Vidhan Sabha next year.

(R.K. Misra can be contacted at




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