Gujarat civic, panchayat polls to set tone for 2012 assembly clash

By R.K. Misra, IANS
Saturday, October 9, 2010

GANDHINAGAR - Elections to six key municipal corporations in Gujarat Sunday and panchayat polls 11 days later are almost akin to a mid-term mandate on the performance of the Narendra Modi government ahead of the 2012 assembly polls.

Six of the total seven municipal corporations of Gujarat - Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Rajkot, Surat, Bhavnagar and Jamnagar - go to polls Sunday in which 86.19 lakh voters in 186 wards are eligible to vote. The results will be out Oct 12.

The number of eligible voters was 70.20 lakh in the 2005 civic polls.

After the civic polls, 25 district panchayats, 208 taluka panchayats and 53 municipalities of the state covering over 2.35 crore voters will go to the polls Oct 21.

In the two polling exercises, a total of 3.40 crore voters - out of the 3.66 crores listed in the 2007 Vidhan sabha elections in the state - are eligible to cast a ballot.

Traditional rivals, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress, exude confidence on romping home in the electoral battles this month.

State BJP vice-president I.K. Jadeja foresees a landslide for his party in the civic polls while the Gujarat Congress legislature party leader Shaktisinh Gohil points to a visible shift of voters away from the corruption-plagued BJP, which is ruling in the state.

“There will be surprises galore,” he added.

With Modi himself leading the campaign for the BJP through hectic heli-hopping, the party’s focus is on national issues.

The arrest of former minister of state Amit Shah in the 2005 Sohrabuddin Sheikh staged shootout case and the alleged misuse of the Central Bureau of India (CBI) by the Congress-led central government are likely to projected by the BJP as bids to target th Modi government.

The rebellion in the BJP ranks following ticket distribution is views by the Congress as a sign of Modi’s waning popularity, said Congress leader and former legislature party leader Arjun Modhwadia.

“It is there for all to see. Resorting to gimmickry by making announcements of putting up world’s tallest statue to Sardar Patel during polls indicates that you do not have the confidence in your work,” he adds.

The BJP has fielded Muslim candidates in predominantly Muslim areas of the cities. “It is a clear indicator of the increasing popularity of Modi and his governance amongst Muslims,” said a BJP leader.

If the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) played a spoilsport for the Congress in the 2005 municipal corporation elections, particularly in Ahmedabad, the Mahagujarat Janata Party (MJP) is angling for precisely the same role against the BJP in these elections.

The MJP is a regional outfit which emerged as splinter group from the BJP in the last state Assembly elections. It is headed by a Vishwa Hindhu Parishad (VHP) leader and former minister of state in the Modi government Gordhan Jhadapia.

The MJP has been directly attacking Modi. “We plan to emerge as the third force in the civic polls,” said Jhadapia.

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