New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) strong show in Gujarat civic polls reflects the party’s continuing political domination in the state, but the bigger message of the poll outcome is how the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is gaining at the cost of the principal opposition party, the Congress.
In Gandhinagar Municipal Corporation (GMC), the AAP won only one seat against the BJP’s 41 and the Congress’ two. But Arvind Kejriwal’s party secured 21 per cent votes, which seem to have come at the expense of the Congress.
The Congress secured 27.9 per cent votes compared to 46.9 per cent in the previous 2016 GMC polls.
The 44-seat GMC had gone to polls Sunday and the results were announced Tuesday.
In 2016, the Congress and the BJP were tied at 16 each, but defection by a Congress corporator swung it for the BJP. Meanwhile, the BJP increased its vote share by 1.73 per cent, polling a total of 46.5 per cent, this time.
In the Surat Municipal Corporation elections held in February, AAP secured 28 per cent votes, managing to win 27 seats out of 120. The ruling BJP won 93 seats while the Congress tally dropped to zero from 36 in 2016.
In its debut performance in the Rajkot civic polls, AAP secured 17 per cent of the vote share in February.
Patidars were said to have voted for the AAP, despite the Congress appointing Hardik Patel, the face of Patidar agitation, as its working president in the state. Patidars comprise around 12 to 14 per cent of the state’s population.
Congress leaders, however, say the AAP is the ‘B team’ of the BJP. “We cannot attribute the success of Surat and Gandhinagar to AAP as people voted for the candidates and not the party,” said Jairaj Singh Parmar, Congress leader and in charge for Gandhinagar polls.
“Candidates from the Patidar agitation who were seeking tickets from Congress for certain seats were not given those tickets and they fought on the AAP symbol instead,” he added.
The Congress leader further noted, “If we talk about Surat polls, the four wards where AAP won the Patidar votes, make only one assembly. Look at ward number 6 in the Gandhinagar seat, where AAP has won. Around 70 per cent of Dalit voters voted for AAP.”
”But yes, AAP will only weaken Congress as, in the Gandhinagar polls, it damaged our vote share in 7 wards. But this has been the case since the Janata Dal days. The Third Front emerges only to weaken Congress but it could never win, be it Shanker Singh Vaghela or Kesu Bhai Singh,” said Parmar.
Eye on upcoming assembly polls
With its consecutive success in civic polls, several prominent leaders have also started joining the AAP, especially after the Surat polls, including Mahesh Savani, a leading businessman in the state.
The party will also be contesting all the seats in the upcoming state assembly polls in 2022.
In a press conference on 12 September, AAP leader Raghav Chadha had alleged that the BJP changed its entire Cabinet and CM because it was threatened by the AAP.
The BJP had asked Vijay Rupani to step down as CM and appointed Bhupendra Patel to office in September, in what ie being seen as a bid to woo the Patidar votes.
BJP Gujarat President C.R. Patil also reportedly expressed his displeasure over the AAP’s success in the recent civic polls.
However, political commentator Ghanshyam Shah noted that it’s still early to determine if the civic polls’ success will benefit the AAP.
“It is too early to say that AAP is going to benefit from this local body polls. There is resentment among Patidars against BJP and that is why they had to induct a Patidar as CM face. They are a powerful community as one section of them is into business and one into agriculture,” Shah told ThePrint.
“But they would not see AAP as an alternative. Hardik Patel is a factor among Patidars but even during the peak of the agitation Patel could not make much difference when it comes to the electorate,” he added.