Continuing its winning run in the 2017 Assembly elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) once again rode on the ‘Modi wave’ to retain power in 46 municipalities out of 75 in the Gujarat civic elections.
However, the saffron party’s overall strength declined from the 2013 civic polls where it had claimed victory on 59 out of 75 seats.
Meanwhile, the opposition Congress chalked up several gains, winning on 16 municipal seats. In 2013, the Grand Old Party had won a mere eight municipalities.
This was largely in keeping with the electoral mood in BJP's bastion of Gujarat ever since the assembly elections. The share of the ruling party, which had bagged 117 seats in the 182-member assembly in 2012, dipped to below 100 -- at 99 seats.
This was only seven more than a simple majority of 92, while at least 15 of its legislators scraped through with margins of less than 500 votes.
Among the other local bodies, there was a tie between the Congress and the BJP on three of the municipalities, while no candidate got majority on seven seats.
The voting for the semi-urban municipalities took place on Saturday. Elections were also held for two district panchayats, 17 taluka (tehsil) panchayats and 1,423 gram panchayats, simultaneously. The villagers in 295 gram panchayats chose their 'sarpanch' unanimously.
This was for the first time in a decade that parties contested the local body polls on their party symbols. Though it lost several urban bodies, the consolation for the BJP is that it has retained a majority hold on the muncipalities since the early 1990s.
The takeaway for the Congress is that it has entered into double-figures in the municipalities after a much-improved performance in the recent assembly elections.
The BJP won 27 of the 28 seats in Vadnagar municipality, the hometown of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with the Congress being able to win only one seat.
Interestingly, the BJP had lost Assembly elections of 2017 from Vadnagar in the wake of the Patel quota stir.
Similarly, Congress has lost all the three municipalities in Mehsana district this time, also losing Kheralu and Vijapur to BJP, in the Patidar hub of north Gujarat.
In auto hub Sanand, the BJP was able to bag 20 of 24 seats, while the Congress saw its seats reducing from eight last time to four.
The Congress was in for a jolt in the Amreli district, the stronghold of Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Paresh Dhanani, where the BJP snatched away three of the four municipalities from the Congress which had made a clean sweep here in 2017 assembly elections.
The woes of another senior Congress leader Arjun Modhvadia, who lost from Porbandar Assembly constituency, increased as the party lost all the three municipality polls in the area.
It lost Kutiyana and Chhaya municipalities to the BJP and Ranavav to the Nationalist Congress Party. More shocking, the son and wife of former Congress MP and Union Minister Naransinh Rathwa lost the elections in the tribal Chhota Udepur district in central Gujarat.
(With IANS inputs)