After years of being in the political wilderness, the Congress put in an impressive performance in the rural areas of Gujarat in elections to local bodies announced on Wednesday.
The Grand Old Party won an impressive 22 of 31 district panchayats, a huge jump from the single panchayat it had won in 2010. It also won more than 50 per cent of the state’s 231 talukas or block-level panchayats. The Congress has been buoyed by these results and its leaders say that the outcome will benefit the party in the Assembly elections in 2017. The Congress has been out of power in Gujarat since 1995 while the BJP has ruled since then, barring a two year period when Shankarsinh Vaghela was the chief minister.
These are the first elections in Gujarat on this scale after Narendra Modi moved from the state to Delhi. His chosen successor Anandiben Patel has faced major political trouble in the shape of a widespread agitation by members of the Patel community who want either want reservations in jobs for themselves or the quotas to completely be eliminated.
Anandiben Patel could feel somewhat relieved at the BJP’s performance in urban areas. Her party won all six municipal corporations including Ahmedabad and Surat, though it faced resistance from the Congress in Rajkot.
The BJP also won more than 40 of the 56 municipalities where elections were held, including in Viramgam, where 22-year-old politician Hardik Patel, leader of the Patel agitation hails. A call by Hardik Patel to vote against the BJP seems to have not had much impact.