The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has staged a type of comeback in Unjha municipality of Mehsana district by fielding candidates on all 36 seats for the final elections scheduled for February 28.
In the earlier election in 2015, the BJP did not put up even a single candidate in the municipality as Patidar leaders, underneath social stress, refused to contest on its image after the quota agitation led by the Hardik Patel-founded Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), created an anti-BJP sentiment in the group.
Mehsana, the district impacted majorly by the agitation, continues to be barred for Hardik, following a bail situation in one of many a number of instances he faces. Hardik subsequently joined the Congress and is now the occasion’s state working president and likewise barred by the Gujarat High Court from stepping out of the state.
Unjha, a predominantly dominated by Patidars and centre for spice commerce, particularly cumin, is pivotal to the politics of North Gujarat, the place BJP’s star campaigner, Union minister Smriti Irani, addressed a rally on Tuesday. Traditionally a BJP bastion, this time two of its candidates out of the entire 36 for the municipality physique, have been declared winners uncontested right here.
In 2015, Unjha was one of many hotspots of the Patidar agitation the place plenty of members from the group had been booked in prison instances. The normal elections of the municipality had been held when the agitation was at its peak.
Congress fielded 5 candidates on its image and the remaining had been independents. Eventually, the elected physique of the municipality had all unbiased councillors with sole exception of Lavjibhai Parmar from Ward no. 9, who gained on a Congress ticket, and is now contesting as an unbiased. “Nobody from the Congress requested me to contest on its image,” he instructed this paper.
This time, there’s a 180-degree flip in Unjha the place the BJP has fielded its candidates on all 36 seats and Congress has none. Leading the occasion’s marketing campaign is BJP MLA from Unjha Asha Patel, a former shut aide of Hardik, who gained the 2017 meeting elections on a Congress ticket, switched to BJP and gained the by-election from the identical seat in 2019.
In the 2017 meeting elections, she was seen as a large slayer, having defeated BJP stalwart and five-time MLA Narayan Patel, in an election the place the Congress bought 77 seats — its highest quantity in the Gujarat meeting because the BJP got here to energy in 1995.
“In the previous, the BJP has by no means fielded candidates on all the seats of Unjha municipality… two of our candidates have already been elected uncontested,” stated Asha, expressing confidence of a BJP victory in the municipality and including that reputed individuals from the city have been given occasion ticket.
On the influence of Patidar reservation agitation, Asha stated, “There isn’t any impact of Patidar agitation (now). All the Patidars are with the BJP. At that point (in 2015), an phantasm was created. Once individuals noticed by it, they got here again (to BJP) together with me.”
On January 30, for the primary time in years, leaders of the 2 sects of Patidars — Leuva and Kadva Patidars — of the Khodaldham Trust and Shree Umiya Mataji Sansthan respectively, met at Unjha to press for a bigger presence in “political, social and academic fields and to unify” the 2 sects which have historically revered completely different deities and noticed separate social customs. Khodal Mata is the deity of the clan of Leuva Patels, and Umiya Mata is that of the Kadva Patels, whose shrine is in Unjha.
Hitesh Patel, an area BJP chief and one of many occasion’s candidates from Ward No. 3, stated that out of the entire 35 unbiased councilors in the outgoing physique of Unjha municipality, 10 are combating elections on BJP ticket.
Rinkuben Patel, a candidate among the many 10 and contesting from Ward no. 2, stated, “This 12 months, the ambiance is in favour of the BJP (in Unjha). So I’m contesting as BJP candidate. I imagine in giving cooperation if one thing good (for the general public) is going on.”
But, there’s a panel of unbiased candidates led by Dharmendra Patel standard as ‘Dhamo Milan’ who was as soon as with Asha Patel, however has now parted methods, and challenges the BJP.
Speaking with The Indian Express, Dharmendra stated, “We are combating towards the BJP as independents… we parted methods owing to disputes with Ashaben. She didn’t contemplate us (in distribution of occasion tickets).”
Dharmendra stated that they didn’t contemplate becoming a member of Congress as a result of most of the people in Unjha “doesn’t like Congress”. In the final elected physique of the municipality, the panel of independents was led by Dharmendra and his brother Jitendra.
Congress occasion incharge for Unjha, Pankaj Patel, stated that he had thus far held just one assembly for the Unjha municipality to verify the long run plan of action for the occasion and submitted a report back to Gujarat Congress president Amit Chavda of the scenario on floor, however refused to reveal its content material.
Out of the entire 81 candidates in the fray for the municipality, 44 are independents.
Lavjibhai Parmar, a Dalit, stated, “I needed to contest as Congress candidate, however no one from the occasion spoke to me. We might have gained a minimum of three seats…. BJP individuals requested me to battle on their image. But I’m a Congress supporter. So, I selected to contest as an unbiased.”
A dozen native residents instructed the Indian Express that the foremost points in the city are lack of excellent larger schooling establishments and hospitals. Many of them additionally cited inflation. They, nevertheless, remained tight-lipped in regards to the influence of Patidar reservation agitation of 2015 on the present elections.
Priya Patel, a 24-year-old publish graduate, stated, “I’ll resolve my voting desire solely after figuring out about all the candidates. I’ll vote for many who will work for us. We don’t have faculty or hospital in Unjha. There is one medical faculty in Vadnagar, however it’s removed from Unjha. If there’s a critical well being challenge, we have to take sufferers both to Mehsana or Ahmedabad.”