Apparent cross-voting by Congress councillors today helped the BJP wrest five district panchayats from the opposition party in Gujarat in elections held for the posts of presidents and vice presidents. Elections to the posts of presidents and vice presidents of over 200 taluka panchayats and 31 district panchayats were held today across Gujarat. Local bodies in Gujarat elect new heads midway through their five-year term. Before today’s elections, the Congress was holding 23 of 31 district panchayats. With the BJP wresting Ahmedabad, Patan, Bhavnagar, Mahisagar and Dahod district panchayats, the Congress’ tally now stood at 18.
The Congress, which had won these local bodies in 2015, accused the ruling BJP of using money power to “buy” its elected members. However, the BJP claimed the Congress lost due to “infighting” in that party. Gujarat unit Congress president Amit Chavda alleged the BJP had paid Rs 25 lakh to Rs 2 crore to each Congress councillor for cross-voting. “Toady’s results clearly show that the BJP has used its money power to snatch power from Congress in five district panchayats. The BJP has paid Rs 25 lakh to Rs 2 crore to these members for switching loyalty during elections. The BJP has misused the government machinery,” Chavda alleged.
He alleged that some councillors of the Congress were “blackmailed” by the BJP to make them switch side while some were offered “huge money”. “Though the BJP has tried hard to snatch almost half of the panchayats ruled by us, they could snatch only five. It shows that Congress workers are still united,” Chavda told reporters.
Hitting back, Gujarat BJP president Jitu Vaghani said the members of the Congress voted in favour of BJP nominees because they were “fed up with the Congress leadership”. “Though Congress councillors wanted to serve people, party’s senior leadership was not allowing them to do so. That is the reason for the Congress’ defeat in these bodies. The Congress lost because of infighting and over-confidence,” Vaghani told reporters in Gandhinagar.