BJP wrests control of Ahmedabad municipal body
Returns to power after five years, securing more than a two-thirds majority
Of the 129 seats, the BJP claimed 96 seats leaving only 32 to the Congress
State BJP confident of similar favourable results in the coming panchayat and municipal elections
AHMEDABAD: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi led the Bharatiya Janata Party to an impressive victory in the elections to the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC).
The BJP wrested control of the State's most important municipal corporation from the Congress, securing more than a two-thirds majority in the 129-member civic body.
It claimed 96 seats, leaving only 32 to the Congress while a lone seat went to an independent. The Akhil Bharatiya Jana Sangh, put up to challenge the BJP with the support of the anti-Modi factions within the party, was wiped out.
The BJP returns to power in the city civic body after a gap of five years. In the 2000 elections the Congress elbowed it out, ending its uninterrupted 13-year rule. The BJP's defeat last time was one of the major setbacks to the former Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel, who has now risen in revolt against Mr. Modi.
Mr. Modi fought the elections almost single-handedly against the combined opposition of the Congress and the BJP dissidents.
Barely three days before Thursday's polling, the differences within the Sangh Parivar reached a crescendo following a police raid on the office of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad city general secretary, Ashwin Patel, who, Mr. Modi believed, was behind the numerous anonymous anti-BJP pamphlets distributed all over the city.
While there was a virtual revolt by dissidents, who refused to participate even in coordination committee meetings, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh volunteers, hitherto diehard supporters of Mr. Modi, kept away from electioneering and the VHP came out almost openly against the BJP.
VHP sources admitted that Mr. Modi and VHP international general secretary Pravin Togadia, who hails from Ahmedabad, were almost not on talking terms after BJP president L.K. Advani called Pakistan founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah `secular' and the Chief Minister stood by him.
Mr. Advani was Mr. Modi's "saviour" in the face of dissident attacks against his leadership.
The search of Mr. Patel's office premises further led to the VHP abandoning the BJP in the civic polls. It is likely to maintain its stance also in the panchayat and the municipal elections later this month.
While a number of Central ministers and senior leaders campaigned for the Congress, for Mr. Modi it was almost a lone battle.
Morale booster to party
The victory in the AMC has boosted the morale of the BJP with the second round of local self government elections round-the-corner; 23 district panchayats, 209 taluk panchayats and 49 municipalities go to the polls on October 25.
The resignation last week by the three senior BJP leaders, Mr. Patel, the former Union Minister, Kashiram Rana, and the former State president, Rajendrasinh Rana, from the committee to select candidates for the panchayat and municipal elections was enough indication that the dissidents were in no mood to cooperate with Mr. Modi.
"Dissidents helping rebels"
Party sources admitted that some of the dissident MLAs from Ahmedabad as well as some VHP leaders owing allegiance to Mr. Keshubhai Patel were helping the rebel BJP or independent candidates. In some cases they even openly campaigned against the BJP.
State BJP president Vajubhai Vala said the outcome of the AMC elections demonstrated the people's confidence in the BJP to take the "mega city" and the State on the path of development.
He said he was confident that favourable results would come for the party in the panchayat and municipal elections as well