Less than two months after a bridge collapse killed 135 people in the town of Morbi in Gujarat, the BJP has won the assembly seat – and two others that fall in the district – despite the Opposition’s questions over alleged neglect.
In the Morbi segment, it helped that the BJP had replaced the sitting MLA with Kantilal Amrutiya, a former MLA who saved several lives in an act of selfless courage by jumping into the river after the bridge collapse.
Such was the scale of the tragedy – over 40 of the dead were children – that the issue gained national prominence, also because it was in the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who also visited Morbi. The courts have since hauled up the local authorities over alleged irregularities in awarding the renovation contract.
But, on the ground, such was people’s trust in the BJP that it won not just the Morbi seat, and that too by a massive margin, but also the other two assembly segments in the district: Tankara and Wankaner.
In the 2017 assembly elections, the Congress had won all three. The Morbi MLA, Brijesh Merja, later resigned and won it for the BJP in the 2020 bypoll. He was denied the BJP ticket this time in favour of “Morbi hero” Amrutiya, who has won five assembly polls in the past.
The region now has BJP dominance – as in the rest of the state after the record victory today – because the Kachchh Lok Sabha segment, which includes Morbi, already has a BJP MP.
Today’s winning margins show how complete the dominance is.
In the Morbi segment, Amrutiya won by a margin of over 50,000, getting nearly 60 percent of the votes. His closest rival, Jerajbhai Patel of the Congress, got less than half of that.
The BJP winner in Wankaner, Jitendra Somani, won by a margin of 20,000-odd, polling nearly 10 percent more votes than sitting Congress MLA Mohammed Javed Pirzada.
In Tankara, the margin was not as huge, but still wide, at about 10,000 votes, as the BJP’s Durlabh Dethariya defeated Congress MLA Lalit Kagathara.
As for the tragedy, the governments at the state and Centre have so far given Rs 4 lakh to the families of each of the dead, and Rs 50,000 to those injured. The courts have said more needs to be given.
On the probe front, the state has formed a committee and there has been some pressure to hold municipal officials and the top management of the contractor firm, Oreva Group, accountable. Nine people – mostly staff engaged by the company – have been arrested so far.
The municipal officials have said Oreva reopened the bridge on October 26, four days before the collapse, without its permission. The colonial-era suspension bridge remained closed for renovation for seven months before its reopening allegedly ahead of schedule.
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