Sixteen municipal council seats in the city of Ahmedabad, which go to the polls on Monday in the second phase of the Gujarat polls, are crucial for the Bharatiya Janata Party, which has held the upper hand in elections here since 1990.
While the Congress improved its numbers in the 2017 election from two in 2012 to four seats, the battle has become more interesting this time with the entry of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which placed its candidates in all 16 seats, and the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) competing for four seats.
Political analysts argue that the BJP, which currently holds 12 of these 16 seats, will win most of them and the AAP may not have any impact. The AIMIM is likely to eat congressional votes in some seats, they say.
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi holding two back-to-back roadshows in the city ahead of the second phase of the polls that will cover northern and central Gujarat, the 16 seats of parliament in the city of Ahmedabad, regarded as a stronghold of the BJP , again in the spotlight.
On December 1, Modi led a 30km roadshow through the city. His procession passed through 13 constituencies of the Ahmedabad Assembly.
On 2 December, he led a 10 km roadshow from Ahmedabad airport to Saraspur environs as part of his whirlwind campaign.
Like other cities of Gujarat, the voters of this bustling urban center have firmly supported the saffron party since the early 1990s.
The city has two prominent seats: Maninagar, from where Modi had run for Assembly membership three times from 2002 to 2014, and Patidar-dominated Ghatlodia, which has had two prime ministers: Bhupendra Patel and Anandiben Patel.
Despite the Patidar quota agitation in 2015, Bhupendra Patel won in 2017 by a huge margin of 1.17 lakh votes.
The BJP has already announced that it will regain the top spot after this election if it retains power in the state.
Congress has sent its Rajya Sabha member Dr Amee Yajnik from Ghatlodia.
The Maninagar constituency can easily be described as the most high-profile seat in the city and a bastion of the BJP.
While the Jamalpur-Khadia and Dariyapur seats are dominated by Muslims, at least six other seats – Ghatlodia, Thakkarbapa Nagar, Sabarmati, Maninagar, Nikol and Naroda – have significant numbers of voters from the Patidar community.
The seats in Vejalpur and Danilimda (SC) also have significant numbers of Muslim voters.
During the 2012 Assembly polls, the BJP gained 14 seats and the Congress got two seats – Dariyapur and Danilimda.
In 2017, the Congress improved its number to four seats: Bapunagar, Jamalpur-Khadia, Dariyapur and Danilimda.
The Asaduddin Owaisi-led AIMIM had announced its candidates for these four seats and Vejalpur, but its Bapunagar candidate Shahnawaz Pathan withdrew his nomination, apparently in favor of the congress candidate.
This time, the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP has fielded candidates for all 16 seats in the city.
In 2017, Himmatsinh Patel of Congress defeated incumbent BJP MLA Jagrupsinh Rajput by a narrow margin of around 3,000 votes in Bapunagar.
Although the AIMIM candidate has withdrawn his nomination in favor of Himmatsinh Patel, there are chances that the BJP will win back the seat this time due to the potential split of votes in Congress, political analyst Dilip Gohil told PTI.
While the AIMIM is out of the picture, Samajwadi Party candidate Altaf Khan Pathan can still spoil Himmatsinh Patel’s game by splitting the Muslim vote and ultimately help the BJP win the seat, which won the Congress in 2017. won by a slim margin.” he claimed.
The Muslim-dominated seat in Jamalpur-Khadia could also see a turn in favor of the BJP, Gohil said.
Of the nearly two lakh voters in the Jamalpur-Khadia constituency, Muslims are at the helm as they make up about a lakh of the electorate, making it a tough nut to crack for the BJP.
In 2012, BJP candidate Bhushan Bhatt won the election, apparently due to the split of minority votes between Congress independent candidate Sabir Kabliwala and Samirkhan Pathan.
Kabliwala was appointed as the president of Gujarat AIMIM a few months ago.
Kabliwala, a rebel congressman, received about 30,000 votes, paving the way for Bhatt’s victory by a slim margin of 6,300 votes in 2012.
Although determined to continue competing as an independent in 2017, he withdrew his nomination at the last minute.
As a result, Congress candidate Imran Khedawala won by a comfortable margin of 29,000 votes in the last election.
This time, Kabliwala has been nominated by the AIMIM from the same seat, which many believe would result in a repeat of the 2012 screenplay.
Congress re-nominated Khedawala and BJP placed confidence in Bhatt.
Gohil said Muslims will vote for Kabliwala mainly because of his personal rapport and not because of the tag of the AIMIM. Chances are he’ll scrap Congress’s minority votes. We may see a repeat of 2012 this time around and Bhatt may manage to sail on. AAP candidate Harun Nagori could also be a bummer for Congress,” he said.
Gohil also said that all cannot be rosy for Bhatt as the picture could change if Hindu voters from the area do not turn out to vote for him in significant numbers.
“The Hindus are unhappy because of some local problems regarding rules for repairing old houses. Some Hindu voters are also unhappy because of an alleged protection money scam in the area. Bhatt may also suffer if Hindus, who had gone elsewhere after renting out their properties here, do not show up on voting day,” he said.
According to Gohil, the AAP will not have a major impact on other seats and there is a good chance that these seats will revert to the BJP.
Out of a total of 182 parliamentary seats in Gujarat, elections will be held on Monday in 93 seats, including 16 in the city of Ahmedabad.
Polling for the remaining 89 seats was held on December 1.
The votes will be counted on December 8.
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