Patidar agitations fail to impress masses; PM Modi and BJP clears a litmus test after demonetisation

Ahmadabad, Nov 29: Tuesday morning was decisive for Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and PM Narendra Modi when Gujarat’s civic polls result were declared. After coming out with a shining result in Maharashtra, BJP retained its home bastion with a clean sweep in Gujarat.

Out of 123 municipal and district panchayat seats in 16 districts to which by-elections were held, the BJP has won 107, while Congress could win just 16 seats. The party won in two municipalities and one taluka panchayat along with majority seats of various other local bodies on which voting was held on Sunday.

Elections for more than 300 local bodies in Gujarat were held in two phases. The election results from Maharashtra and Gujarat came as a big relief for BJP as it was a litmus test for the party  during the Modi-era.

If recent bypoll results are any indication, demonetisation has not been able to dent Modi’s popularity, in fact has even enhanced it.

Despite of Patidars’ aggressive campaign on demand for quota benefits against BJP, this poll results seems to surprising and overwhelming. The opposition from Patidars came to such an extent that BJP leaders were banned from campaigning in many areas in the state. Even the influential leaders bore the brunt of the opposition from Patidars.

BJP managed to make a significant move as it had got 50 mayors elected and even winning in places where it never had any footprint. The party won 851 seats in the polls conducted in 165 civic bodies.

As a report in The Telegraph points out, “How big the BJP leap is can be gauged from its winning a clear majority in 31 municipalities, bagging 52 president’s posts and pocketing about 900 municipal councillors’ seats. In 2011, the BJP had no ward member in 80 of the 147 councils; in the remaining 67, it had some 200 councillors. Its ally, the Shiv Sena, had about 250 councillors in all.” In 2011, adds the report, “The NCP and the Congress were no. 1 and 2 with 950 and 771 seats, respectively. This time, the two have won about 900 wards.”

Though municipal poll results depend on the basis of local issues, poll pundits had predicted a setback against BJP because of demonetisation woes and ban on cooperative banking.

A report in The Indian Express just ahead of the polling day claimed that a polarisation had taken place against the BJP with even ally Shiv Sena joining the Congress and NCP corner in targeting the prime minister over currency woes.

“In a clear departure from the past, the local body elections in Maharashtra are veering around demonetisation instead of local issues. The bijli, sadak, pani slogan has given way to a currency debate across districts gearing for local polls. In the last 72 hours, it has become evident that the BJP is facing isolation even as Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena are making currency replacement a weapon to target Modi and the BJP.”

In tweets PM Modi noted that the BJP “has performed very well” in recent elections and said, “These results across India illustrate that people want all-round progress of the nation and will not tolerate corruption and misgovernance.”

“People of India back note ban move… Our performance in local polls held across two states present the mood of the nation. We sense they are with us ,” said Union minister Prakash Javadekar.

Modi haters and political rivals, who were on a spree projecting the by-elections as a measuring stick for Modi’s demonetisation policy and bad governance, have now been busy in listing out reasons on how the results are not indicatives of public support on note ban. The rhetorical gymnastics shall continue.

Truth is, if Modi is getting away with such a large-scale disruption and is even benefiting from it, it is a testimony to his intense and reciprocal relationship with the masses.