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BJP wrests Junagadh

Ahmedabad, July 22: The Congress lost its last bastion in Gujarat today — Junagadh, the one-time princely state annexed to India by Sardar Patel after it had acceded to Pakistan — in the first election held after Narendra Modi, who sees himself as an Iron Man in the mould of Patel, took the reins in Delhi.

The BJP wrested the Junagadh Municipal Corporation with a two-thirds majority, winning 41 of the 60 seats. The Congress’s strength has dropped to 16 in the only one of the state's eight municipal corporations that the party held. The BSP has won two seats and an Independent candidate has won one.

The BJP had gone all out to conquer Junagadh, campaigning hard and encouraging defections in the Congress that had held the municipality for 15 years before it became a municipal corporation in 2003 and the BJP won the first election. The Congress won it back in 2009.

Eight Congress councillors had crossed over to the BJP recently, and the BJP fielded them all. Seven retained their seats, BJP spokesperson Vijay Rupani said.

Back in 1947, Sardar Patel as the then home minister had got back Junagadh, now Gujarat’s seventh largest city located at the foot of the Girnar hills, after it acceded to Pakistan. India had been outraged when Mohammed Ali Jinnah accepted the Junagadh nawab’s instrument of accession although the population of the princely state that did not share a border with Pakistan was overwhelmingly Hindu.

Patel ordered the forcible annexation of Junagadh, which became part of India in November 1947 after a plebiscite. The dewan of Junagadh at the time was Shah Nawaz Bhutto, the father of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who later went on to lead Pakistan.

In the municipal election for which the results were declared today, the Congress was not expecting to do well but not as badly either. “We were not expecting such a humiliating defeat. There are many reasons for our defeat — mainly defections and the anti-Congress mood of the people, which is very much prevalent months after the general election,” Congress leader Rashmikant Suthar said.