Congress has sent its panchayat members from Gujarat to Rajasthan fearing that they might be “poached” by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of elections to the panchayat president and vice-president posts in the state, a report by The Indian Express said today. The move by the party comes as a reminder to the approach it had adopted during the crucial Rajya Sabha polls when 44 state MLAs were sent to a luxurious resort in Bengaluru in July 2017. The elections for president and vice-president of panchayats are scheduled for June 20.
While the candidates for the two posts will be brought back on the last date for filing nominations on June 19, others will return on the day of polling. Congress has come up with the idea to keep the BJP at bay as incumbents in both posts are from the Congress, the report says.
“We are in hiding in Rajasthan for a week due to fear of the BJP poaching our representatives using saam, daam, dand, bhed (persuasion, bribe, punishment, threats),” Ahmedabad District Congress Committee (ADCC) chief Khodaji Thakor was quoted as saying by IE. Patan District Congress Committee (PDCC) president Kanjibhai Desai, who is in Rajasthan along with Thakor, said that all 16 Congress members from his district panchayat have been “relocated”.
BJP has rejected the charges of poaching. “The Congress is not able to keep its own flock together and hence they are levelling baseless allegations against the BJP,” party spokesperson Bharat Pandya said.
The election of office-bearers in Gujarat district panchayats is held every 30 months from among the elected representatives. As the term of the current office-bearers ends this month, fresh elections were necessitated in different districts.
In the Ahmedabad district panchayat, the Congress has 18 in the 34-member House, while in Patan it had won 22 of 32 seats. This was later reduced to a mere 16 after many defected to the BJP, allegedly under the influence of Balwantsinh Rajput, who shifted loyalties from the Congress to the BJP before the Rajya Sabha elections and contested unsuccessfully against Ahmed Patel.
“One of them is willing to come back and we are sure to retain power in the panchayat,” said Desai. Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi said, “We are going to retain power in both Ahmedabad and Patan districts despite BJP playing every trick to defeat us.” In December 2015, the Congress had won 23 of 31 district panchayats and 113 of 193 taluka panchayats.