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AAP Opens Account in Gujarat Civic Polls, Becomes No 2 in Surat

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Tuesday made inroads in Gujarat politics, winning 27 seats in the Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC). Elections to six municipal corporations in the state were held on Sunday and counting took place on Tuesday.

While the BJP retained power by winning 93 seats in the 120-seat SMC, the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP won remaining 27 seats. The Congress, which had won 36 seats in SMC last time, was reduced to zero seats. AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj announced that Kejriwal will hold a road-show in Surat city on February 26 “to thank the people” The AAP received crucial support from the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), the organization agitating for quota for the Patel community, once led by Hardik Patel.

Hardik Patel is now the working president of Gujarat Congress. Though the PAAS is now virtually defunct, two of its prominent members – Alpesh Kathiria and Dharmik Malavia – are still active in Surat and command support in the community.

Riding on the anti-BJP wave created by the quota agitation in 2015, Congress managed to win 36 seats in Patidar-dominated areas of Surat last time. But before Sunday’s elections, both Kathiria and Malavia had openly pledged to defeat the Congress following differences with its leaders over of ticket distribution.

In 2016, Kejriwal had addressed a rally in Patidar- dominated Varachha area ahead of 2017 Assembly polls. But his party failed to open its account in the 2017 elections. This was for the first time AAP had fielded its candidates in the municipal polls in Gujarat, said Bhardwaj.

But it did not win any seats in other five municipal corporations. “AAP has given a new hope to the people of Surat. We have put an end to the friendly match which was going on between Congress and BJP. For a party which does not even have a sarpanch in Gujarat, it is remarkable to win 27 seats,” said Bhardwaj.

Preeti Sharma Menon, Mumbai in-charge of the AAP, said the people of Surat and the party’s leaders there showed that “clean politics is possible across India”. “The Congress is the opposition the BJP wants.

Congress’ rout has yet again demonstrated that it is finished,” she said, adding that only Kejriwal and the AAP can successfully take on the BJP electorally.

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