In a clean sweep in the Gujarat civic polls, BJP won all six municipal corporations in the state by picking up a mammoth 483 out of the 576 available seats. This marks a gain of 94 seats for the party from 2016, an exceptional feat given that it has been in office for more than two decades in the state. Concurrently, Congress received a drubbing at the polls, winning just 55 seats – down from 176 five years ago – and failing to even open its account in Surat. But the real surprise has been debutant AAP’s performance which won 27 seats in Surat, emerging as the main opposition in that municipal corporation.
This is a win for AAP which till now has largely been seen as a party with little influence outside Delhi. True, AAP’s gains in Surat have come at the expense of Congress. In fact, a similar situation unfolded in Ahmedabad’s two Muslim-dominated wards of Jamalpur and Maktampura where Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM – also contesting for the first time – won seven of the eight seats previously held by Congress.
Congress today faces a double whammy. While its minority appeasement baggage weighs it down in direct contests with BJP, its inability to sort out its central leadership woes is hurting its base. Sans clear direction from the top, Congress leaders and workers are left feeling listless, making them vulnerable to poaching, defections and resignations as recently seen in Puducherry – where the only Congress government in south India fell. Unless Congress can offer a strong leader at the top who can motivate the party, its base will continue to crumble – with BJP enjoying rich dividends and the crumbs going to regional outfits.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.
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