Skip to main content

What lay behind Gujarat's top officials' recent "meeting" with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi

K Kailashnathan
By RK Misra*
Do not ask for whom the bell tolls, for this time it tolls nearer home. The resurgence of the Congress in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s bastion of Gujarat during recent local body polls is cause for enough concern for him. This became evident when, a few days back, chief secretary GR Aloria, DGP PC Thakur and chief principal secretary of the chief minister KK Kailasnathan called on him in New Delhi.
Though it was billed as a meeting to discuss the forthcoming conference of the country’s top cops to be held in Kutch, these preliminaries were dispensed with within minutes and then followed an almost hour long closed door meeting between Modi and Kailasnathan in which the poll outcome was discussed. Kailasnathan is a trusted former bureaucrat of Modi who headed the CMO during his tenure and has been retained as his eyes and ears in Gandhinagar on the same post even during Anandiben’s tenure.
Delhi, Bihar and now Gujarat. Billed as the semi-final encounter before the next State Assembly polls in 2017, the election results to 323 local self government bodies in Gujarat is cause for alarm to the ruling BJP and nectar to the ears of the Congress. Rendered comatose by Narendra Modi in his 13 year long rule of Gujarat, the Congress has virtually risen from the grave within just 18 months of his departure for Delhi. The results announced on December 2 were bad news for the BJP in Gujarat. While the ruling party in the state has managed to retain urban control, the Congress has swept the countryside.
The ruling BJP retained control of the municipal corporations of Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Rajkot, Surat, Jamnagar and Bhavnagar and 40 of the 56 smaller town municipalities but the Congress walked away with a majority of the 31 district panchayats and 230 taluka panchayats.
The results constitute a major setback to the Anandiben Patel government which inherited from Narendra Modi control of 30 of the 31 district panchayats,190 of the 230 taluka (tehsil) panchayats, 47 of the 56 municipalities and all the eight municipal corporations.
The BJP may have retained control of all the six municipal corporations of Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Rajkot, Surat, Jamnagar and Bhavnagar but the steamroller margins that Modi had gifted his succesors has been considerably whittled down.
BJP secured majority in the municipal corporations of Ahmedabad winning 143 of the total 192 seats, Surat’s 76 of the total 116 seats, Vadodara’s 54 of the total 76 seats ,Jamnagars’ 38 of 64 seats and Bhavnagar’s 34 of 52 seats.
In fact, in Rajkot civic body the BJP won by a mere four seats with 38 seats against 34 of the Congress.Though it failed to get majority but the strength of the Congress improved substantially in these six cities compared to the results of the 2010 elections.
Again, in the elections to the 56 towns, BJP won 40 municipalities, which is seven less than it’s previous tally of 47. Congress has won ten municipalities while the results of three others ended up in a tie between Congress and the BJP. Independents won in three municipalities including that of Unjha town in North Gujarat where the BJP had failed to even put up a candidate on it’s own symbol.
It was however the district and taluka elections where the ruling BJP received its worst drubbing of recent times with the Congress walking all over it in district and taluka panchayat polls which had predominantly rural voters.
From just one district panchayat in the 2010 elections, the Congress rose to annex 23 of the total 31 district panchayats in the state with BJP down to a mere six and the Somnath and Dangs district panchayat results seeing a tie with both BJP and Congress winning nine seats each.
It was a near similar scenario in the taluka panchayat elections where the Congress rose from control of 37 to 132 taluka panchayats in the just concluded polls. The BJP which earlier controlled 193 now stands reduced to 73 with 25 going to independents.
The most shocking aspect of the polls for the BJP was that the Congress bagged the taluka and district panchayats of prime minister Narendra Modi’s native village of Vadnagar, chief minister Anandiben Patel’s Visnagar and her number two in the cabinet, health minister Nitin Patel’s Kadi which all figure in Mehsana district of north Gujarat from where the Patidar agitation emanated.
Home minister Rajni Patel’s hometown of Himmatnagar as well as the bastion of numerous other ministers also went the congress way. Karnali village in Vadodara district, which was adopted by union finance minister Arun Jaitley who is a Rajya Sabha member from Gujarat also saw the BJP lose out.
It goes without saying that Modi just cannot afford a slide in BJP fortunes in Gujarat. Any debacle in the 2017 State Assembly elections in his home state will fatally wound BJP as well as Modi’s prospects in the general elections that will follow two years later in 2019. These results have great national implications and the prime minister aware of it has summoned the state BJP leaders.
The continuing disenchantment of the patels shows no signs of abating and the present chief minister is not helping matters by pressing to keep their young leadership behind bars under charges so grave as sedition. It is a costly mistake which will only further alienate the youth who have been at the forefront of support for Modi and the BJP.
If the ruling party even remotely entertained some thoughts of easing the pressure on Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) leader Hardik Patel, the Congress has now decided to jump into the fray demanding his release and threatening an agitation and the government would not like to be seen as giving in to opposition pressure. Already the High Court has sought an affidavit from the state government on the reasons for tapping into his phones and will have some tough explaining to do.
Both BJP and the Congress acknowledge that the election results showed a distinct divide between urban and rural voters. This is clear indication that the rural population feels that the present government’s approach is too urban-centric and at the cost of the rural population. The distinctive tilt towards industry at the cost of agriculture and the agitations over making available rich agricultural land for industrial projects has been a sore point with ruralites leading to protracted agitations with the government casting it’s lot with industry.
This is a growing national perception that the Modi-led NDA government at the centre also suffers from. The signs are ominous and the ruling party would do well to take care lest it come a cropper.The Congress for now has cause to celebrate. At least in Gujarat!
---
*Senior Gandhinagar-based journalist based in Gandhinagar. Blog: http://wordsmithsandnewsplumbers.blogspot.in/

Comments

TRENDING

Missed call drive for VVPAT verification follows online plea to "pressure" poll panel

By Our Representative
Several political activists have begun a new campaign, asking concerned citizens to give a missed call on 9667655855 to “support the demand that 2019 Loksabha elections must be declared only after verification of 50% electronic voting machines (EVMs) with Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) receipts.” The effort, supported by civil society networks across India, is meant to "further pressure" India's election machinery to ensure that the poll outcome becomes more transparent.

Now, top Gujarat "litterateur" close to Modi says: Godse was patriot, so was Gandhi

By Rajiv Shah
A little over a week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi criticized BJP candidate from Bhopal Pragya Thakur for calling Nathuram Godse a patriot saying he would never forgive her for the remark, a top Sangh Parivar ideologue, known to close to Modi in Gujarat, has supported her, saying her statement should be seen “within a context.” Thakur won from Bhopal by more than 3.5 lakh votes defeating her nearest rival, veteran Congressman and ex-Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh.

Opposition refuses to legally challenge EVMs amidst plans of "back to ballot" protest

Counterview Desk
Even as opposition to the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) allegedly to rig polls is growing, a group of prominent citizens who have come together to form the EVM Virodhi Rashtriya Jan Andolan has controversially called for a national protest against EVMs on May 30, demanding future elections should be held only on ballot paper.

When a Pak scribe said Modi has 'proved' Jinnah’s two nation theory right...

By Zafar Agha*
It was around nine in the morning on May 24, 2019, a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi stormed the Lok Sabha with 300-plus MPs. It was a call from a journalist friend, Muzamal Suhrawardy, from Lahore, Pakistan. I ignored the call. We liberals had a depressing day the previous evening as the opposition to Modi and BJP collapsed. The results belied reports from the ground and even assessments made by colleagues.

It's now official: Akshay Kumar has not been conferred honorary Canadian citizenship

By Our Representative
It is now official. Super-star Akshay Kumar has not been conferred any honorary citizenship by Canadian authorities, as claimed by him ahead of the 2019 elections. In reply to a query by Roshan Shah, who is a Canadian citizen living in Waterloo, Ontario, and belongs to Ahmedabad, the country’s authorities dealing with issues related with immigration, refugees and citizenship in Canada have said that only six persons have so far been granted honorary citizenship.

Savarkar in Ahmedabad "declared support" to two-nation theory in 1937, followed by Jinnah three years later

By Our Representative
One of the top freedom fighters whom BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi revere the most, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, was also a great supporter of the two nation theory for India, one for Hindus another for Muslims, claims a new expose on the man who is also known to be the original proponent of the concept of Hindutva.

If EC's credibility is under question, shouldn't one "assume" EVMs might be tampered?

Counterview Desk
Gauhar Raza, scientist, documentary film maker and poet; senior human rights activist Shabnam Hashmi of the Act Now for Harmony and Democracy (ANHAD); military veteran Major Priyadarshi Chowdhury (retd); and Sucheta De and Sandeep Saurav of the All India Students' Association (AISA), have asked “individuals, organisations and people's movements” to send their endorsement to an appeal they have prepared on Electronic Voting Machine (EVM).

Common thread of Modi, political Hinduism, nationalism? 'Contest' of ideas isn't over

By Salman Khurshid*
Losing the 2019 election and that too in a somewhat extreme manner has confronted us with unexpected challenges: Our leadership has naturally taken it very hard and to heart but with suggested options that we cannot imagine or contemplate. Hopefully the emotions will settle soon and give us the direction to pick up the pieces and march again.

Govt of India overestimated GDP by 2.5%, must restore reputational damage: Ex-CEA

By Rajiv Shah
Top economist Arvind Subramanian has said that changes brought about by the Government of India in data sources and methodology for estimating the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) since 2011-12 “has led to a significant overestimation of growth”. While official estimates place annual average GDP growth between 2011-12 and 2016-17 at about 7 percent, the actual growth may have been 4½ percent, ranging from 3 ½ to 5 ½ percent during the period, he adds.

Will minorities in India be 2nd class citizens? Wake up call: Be a 'communicating' Church

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
India today is at a defining moment of her history. There is so much that has taken place in the past five years (and particularly in the last ten days)- that several citizens of the country are genuinely concerned about the future of the country! Will democracy survive? Will key elements of the Constitution be changed?