Surprisingly, not a single national leader of BJP or the Congress—both rocked by internal bickerings and protests over ticket distribution–descended on Gujarat for campaigning but Manish Sisodia, deputy Chief Minister of AAP-ruled Delhi, as well as AIMIM supremo Asaduddin Owaisi flew down from the national capital and Hyderabad, respectively, to woo the voters by pressing their flesh and kissing the babies
Mahesh Trivedi | Clarion India
AHMEDABAD – Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Sunday cast his vote at a polling booth here in an exciting battle of ballots in Gujarat’s six major cities where some 11 million voters will decide the fate of 576 councillors in the cash-rich municipal corporations in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The elections to the 323 local self-government institutions, including 55 municipalities, 31 district panchayats and 231 taluka panchayats going to polls on February 28, are being seen as the litmus test for the saffron party ahead of the assembly polls next year.
With the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the All-India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) making a foray into the age-old bipolar electoral politics in the state, the provincial polls promise to be a cliff-hanger right up to the final whistle what with even the Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP), the Social Democratic Party of India, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Bahujan Mukti Party also throwing their hats into the ring.
Surprisingly, not a single national leader of BJP or the Congress—both rocked by internal bickerings and protests over ticket distribution–descended on Gujarat for campaigning but Manish Sisodia, deputy Chief Minister of AAP-ruled Delhi, as well as AIMIM supremo Asaduddin Owaisi flew down from the national capital and Hyderabad, respectively, to woo the voters by pressing their flesh and kissing the babies.
State Congress leaders have dismissed AAP and AIMIM as ‘B’ teams of BJP and in its manifesto Sonia Gandhi’s Grand Old Party has promised various sops, including free Wi-Fi zones, parking areas for city slickers, air purifiers on city roads to improve air quality, 50 per cent decrease in property tax, free education in English medium in civic-run schools, and tax exemption to shopkeepers and traders hit by Covid-19 lockdown.
On the contrary, BJP whistle-stoppers, instead of elaborating on local burning issues, kept shouting from the rooftops about Modi’s so-called achievements, upcoming Ram temple, etc. in their ho-hum speeches.
The party, which has been ruling all the six civic bodies for the past two decades, will also have to pay the price for not giving the poll ticket to senior citizens or repeating three-term senior councillors or their kinsmen as this has left many saffronites fretting and fuming.
Despite its poll alliance with BTP, AIMIM rabble-rousers’ gum beating has failed to cast a spell on the six million Muslims who have been reduced to second-class citizens after the 2002 bloody communal riots in the saffron-ruled state.
BJP, which had fielded four Muslim candidates in the 2015 civic polls in Ahmedabad, has not asked a single Muslim faithful to file papers in any of the eight Muslim-dominated wards, leaving the minority community to wonder whether Modi’s party wanted to ensure a victory for AIMIM.
Under the circumstances, the appeal by the All-India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat to give a thumbs-down to communal parties and unitedly vote for ‘good’ and ‘true-blue’ candidates is likely to touch the heart strings of the hard-pressed community.
In the previous five-year term, all the six civic bodies in Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Rajkot, Surat, Bhavnagar and Jamnagar were controlled by BJP. While the saffron party ruled over 117 municipalities in towns, the Congress had in its kitty 42.
But in the rural areas, the Congress ruled the roost with the party calling the shots in 22 district panchayats (BJP-9) and 148 taluka panchayats (BJP-101).