Less than a year after Patidar protests played the catalyst to throw the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) out of local bodies in Gujarat’s countryside, the party seems back on track in the same pockets ahead of the assembly elections due next year.
The BJP on Tuesday won 109 of the total 126 seats across district and taluka panchayats and municipalities in 16 districts.
After a remarkable performance last year in local body elections, the Congress could bag only 17 seats this time.
Overall, in the polls held on Sunday, the BJP gained 45 seats while the Congress lost 39.
The results in BJP’s favour came even as people continued to queue up outside banks and ATMs to withdraw cash following the Centre’s demonetisation decision.
The BJP asserted the win was beyond urban-rural lines and it was elected by farmers as well as the middle class to fight corruption through demonetisation.
“The BJP has won in urban as well as rural areas. This proves people are in favour of development and corruption-free governance,’’ said chief minister Vijay Rupani.
The Congress, however, maintained this did not represent the larger picture.
“By-election results cannot be a precursor for the assembly elections,’’ said party spokesperson Manish Doshi.
Last year, following the debacle in the countryside for the first time in 30 years, when it lost 60% of taluka panchayat seats and 75% of district panchayat seats to the Congress in the heat of the Patidar agitation, the BJP was quick to make amends.
While Rupani replaced Anandiben Patel, the new government also came up with a series of measures, including support price for groundnut and new electricity connections, for farmers.
The government also offered an olive branch to Patidars agitating for OBC reservation benefits in college admissions and government jobs.
Following an invitation, 11 aides of the exiled quota leader Hardik Patel are slated to hold talks with the Rupani government on Thursday.
The BJP made a comeback in Gondal taluka panchayat, a hub of Patidars. Gondal and nearby Jetpur had seen widespread protests by Dalits following the Una flogging incident in July.