Ahmedabad: The Gujarat Congress has moved about three dozen of its local leaders to neighbouring Rajasthan to make sure that there are no defections ahead of the Panchayat elections in Ahmedabad and Patan districts.
The move is an age-old manoeuvre mastered by the Congress after it successfully managed to pull it off during the 2018 Karnataka Assembly elections and 2017 Karnataka Rajya Sabha elections.
District panchayat members of Ahmedabad and Patan were packed off to an undisclosed location in Rajasthan for a couple of days. Out of the 34, only the nominees for the post of panchayat president and vice president came back on Tuesday morning to file their nominations. The others are expected back late on Tuesday as voting for the two top office bearers of these district panchayats will take place on Wednesday.
Speaking to News18, Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) president Amit Chavda confirmed that the panchayat members were in Rajasthan but said, “They have not been sent to any resort. It is just that the BJP has been making desperate attempts to use all kinds of unfair means to win over the majority of members in the Ahmedabad and Patan district panchayats. We cannot remain mute spectators and let the BJP forcibly try to gain control of district panchayats ruled by the Congress,” he said.
Kanjibhai Desai, president of the Patan District Congress Committee told News18 that all the 36 Congress party members of the Ahmedabad and Patan district panchayats have either returned or will return back to their respective districts by Tuesday night. “There is simply no question of any ethics as far as the BJP is concerned. Our members have been threatened, they have been offered huge sums of money and other allurements to vote in favour of the BJP nominees. Despite this, none of our members will vote for the BJP on Wednesday,” Kanjibhai said.
The BJP has labelled these allegations as baseless, stating that the Congress is not able to keep its flock together and has hence come up with these accusations of poaching. “It has become a habit for the Congress party to level such allegations against the BJP every time. The truth is that the Congress is not able to keep its elected representatives together. The BJP will win these two district panchayats,” he stated.
In the Ahmedabad district panchayat, the Congress has 18 members in the 34-member house, while in the Patan district panchayat, the Congress had won 22 of the 32 seats when elections were held. Later, though, its strength was reduced to 16 after a few elected representatives defected to the BJP. Many believe Balwantsinh Rajput, who defected to the BJP ahead of the Ahmed Patel Rajya Sabha election, was instrumental in getting Congress members over to the BJP.